Remember pen pals? They're coming back ... both the snail-mail and modern-day versions.

Show of hands: Who knows someone who had — or has — a pen pal?

Has this quaint tradition gone by the wayside since technology gave us a way to avoid “treeware" and stamps, or is it still going strong?

It turns out there are people using the traditional methods as well as today's communication tools to talk to folks the world over. And it's beautiful.


Image of Upside Down Jenny via U.S. Post Office Department.

How did it work back in ye olden days?

If you were in school way back before the Internet existed (I know — unimaginable, right?!), one thing some kids would do is write actual, physical letters to pen pals across the world.

Sometimes a teacher would find the pals for the class to write to as a group, and sometimes the children themselves would figure out who to write to on their own, but they would send letters to that person and have them answered. Sometimes, these updates would be read to the class. Trinkets and photos and stickers would be exchanged.

It introduced children, their family, and their friends to cultures they'd only learned about in encyclopedias or from brief exposure on television.

A quote from one of the letters featured in the video below. Cute, huh? Image via PBS Parents.

Learning how to write things in other languages came with the territory. Finding out about cultural differences — and similarities — was a part of the experience, too. Family traditions, ways of dealing with life's challenges, even perspectives on the happenings of the world would be offered. Or maybe just the old classic, "How are you? I am fine."

Could it work now? Yes!

Sure, it's vastly easier to accomplish this kind of communication today via Facebook, Twitter, blogs, emails, video chats, Vines, and more. Letter writing and communicating with pen and paper might just be disappearing so rapidly that there will be few remnants of it soon — at least for them.

The Internet and all that it offers lets us actually sit down to dinner with pen pals in Tokyo, sing a song with guitar accompaniment by kids in Germany, tour the streets of Lagos, Nigeria, or participate in a Day of the Dead ceremony in Mexico. (Of course, safety is key when interacting with anyone on the Internet.)

Image by Ravindraboopathi/Wikimedia Commons.

But the video below talks about how using paper, pen, and stamps can get kids to slow down and take their time in both writing and waiting for a response.

It's absolutely the opposite of all forms of electronic communication in that it teaches patience, provides practice for creative writing, and cultivates kids' imaginations.

Here, courtesy of PBS Parents, are some kids who are learning very quickly the old-fashioned way what it means to be citizens of the world.

And a few jumping-off places for those who want to dive in right now, using your keyboard or phone: PenPalSchools.com and International PenFriends.

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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