By Lucy Ruscitto | Staff Writer
College students have had to adjust to their new lives at home, away from their friends and belongings during this time of uncertainty. Three Baylor students have found a way to tighten up that distance by sending handwritten letters across the country.
Spartanburg, S.C., freshman Faith Lee, said she has been writing letters to her out-of-state friends for years, but has found them to especially come in handy in an estranged time such as this.
“I started writing letters and sending friendship bracelets in response to the mail I received while serving at Young Life camps, but I realized it’s always fun to receive something in the mail,” Lee said. “With the abundance of free time I’ve had on my hands in the last month of quarantine and awful circumstances of COVID-19, I thought this would be the perfect time to send words of encouragement.”
Lee said she loves to tell people in her letters what she misses about them, the impact they have had on her, what the Lord is currently teaching her and inquires about what they have been doing to stay occupied in quarantine. She also asks for their prayer requests for the week.
“It’s such a fun and intentional way to keep in touch and show the people you love that you’re thinking of them,” Lee said.
Portland, Ore., sophomore Halle Kill said she she too appreciates the deliberateness of her friends who send responses back to her letters.
“It always makes me feel super loved to get a letter in the mail and know a friend went that extra mile to write to me,” Kill said. “In such a crazy time, it always makes my day to open the mailbox and find an unexpected note from a friend.”
Sharon Stern, Baylor health services medical director, said that sending letters does not pose a serious health concern. She said health professionals know that virus particles remain on “non-porous surfaces,” such as plastic and metals, hours after placed. However, the professionals do not yet know if it’s infectious.
“The virus does not live very long at all on porous surfaces like paper, so I do not believe there is a significant risk of transmitting it by letter writing,” Stern said. “If a person is concerned then all they need to do is wash their hands after handing the paper. The virus is killed with soap and water and the virus needs to come in contact with mucus membranes to infect a person, eyes, nose, mouth, so as long as they do not put the letter on their face they should be fine.”
Olathe, Kan., freshman Lauren Dudley said that letter writing has brought a level of optimism into her life during this time.
“I try to write messages that are encouraging and uplifting because we all need some positivity during this time,” Dudley said. “Exchanging letters provides a good reminder that we can overcome challenges and find the positives in the fear and uncertainty.”
Kill also said that writing letters are a great way to reach out to those she’s not even so close with, to get to know them and experience new people’s stories during a time of seclusion.
“I also love sending little notes to friends I don’t know as well but who I’m inspired by and just want to say hi to,” Kill said. “It’s a fun way to branch out and get to know people or just send encouragement and bring a little positivity to people’s day.”
Kill said she additionally enjoys how creating “snail mail” has been worked into her new routine, and has established a bit of normalcy and peace in her life.
“I start my day with a little walk up the hill to our mailbox to get the mail and to send any letters I’ve written … it’s something that helps me spend time outside every day and get some fresh air in a time when it’s really easy to sit at the computer working on homework or on my phone scrolling through Tik Tok all day,” Kill said.
Letters have began to evolve throughout quarantine as being bored expands the borders of creativity.
“You can add your own flare to letters with paint, calligraphy, stickers, etcetera,” Dudley said.
“I’ve seen people sending friendship bracelets, watercolor art, photos — there are so many ways to make snail mail fun,” Kill said.
Lee, Kill and Dudley all said they love the way that their letter-sending has connected them to their friends from Baylor, despite being hundreds and thousands of miles apart.
“I live out of state so I can definitely feel very far away and separated from a lot of my community in Waco, and snail mail helps make the distance feel a little smaller,” Kill said.
Dudley said she thinks that letter writing can be a nice break from the overwhelming digital world we are living in more now than ever before.
“Since most everything is moving online, like classes and meetings, it’s nice to find other ways, aside from using technology, to keep in touch,” Dudley said. “By writing letters, you can give encouragement and remind others that we are in this together.”
Lee said that communicating via mail is a fun way to spend quarantine, and she recommends Baylor students pick up the “forgotten” and old-fashioned practice.
“Getting something in the mail when you have practically no physical contact with the outside world is really exciting and will likely make your recipients’ day,” Lee said. “It’s really not that hard or expensive and it reminds the people you love that you care about them in a way that’s a little more thoughtful than a simple text message.”