This I Believe

Julie - Birmingham, Alabama
Entered on September 23, 2007

I had forgotten. I had forgotten the tremendous importance of snail mail for communicational purposes. I had forgotten that particular bliss felt when I received a letter addressed in my name. See, I’m not talking about those envelopes filled the my tumbling report card or another insincere college postcard; I am talking about a letter written to me…Just to check in, see how I’m doing, maybe even a quick hello. Something along the lines of a pen pal. I am now one of the lucky ones who has a constant pen pal, sending me countless envelopes full of cheer and genuine happiness. This seemingly insignificant 39 cent stamped scrap of paper fills me with a kind of love and camaraderie found nowhere else. Simply put, I believe in pen pals.

It is the summer of 2006, and I am attending a two-week community service summer program in Baltimore, Maryland. A volunteer opportunity lies within a retirement home. Eek… a retirement home? I can’t despise the thought visiting there more. Screaming my name in their hearing aids and conversing about topics such as Babe Ruth’s batting average is not my ideal summer plan. However, I reason, “Hey, if this is the worst hour of my life, at least I’ll get some free lemon drops from it.” Once I enter the stale mothball and soggy carrot scented atrium, I discover a feeble gray haired woman with the largest denture smile I have ever seen. As I nervously trot past her, those big blue eyes, hidden behind her think granny glasses, bring me to a halt. Esther P. Cohen is her name, age 94, a Baltimorean all her life, and fortunately not yet consumed by the malicious disease known Alzheimer’s. As cliché as this sounds, it’s true…our souls connect. She feeds me such wisdom and positivity; the hour I had just dreaded is suddenly gone. Within a brief sixty minutes, Esther has enlightened me with her philosophy on life and touched me with inspirational advice. I leave her an emotional wreck, knowing our time together has now forever past.

Three weeks after visiting Esther, I grew homesick for the community service I had preformed in Baltimore. I eased my pain by examining the pictures uploaded on where else, my overused computer, and up popped a picture of Esther and me. Instantly, I thought “Why not write her a simply letter?” I felt idiotic not thinking of this earlier, although I guess the infamous email had jaded me. I sent my letter and waited one, two, three days, which eventually turned into two weeks… still no letter. At last, I received a small envelope with shaky manuscript addressed to Julie Saag. Esther had written me back.

Luckily, I was able to return to the community service program again this past summer, where Esther and I were able to reunite. Pen paling had kept us together. She told me of the love she received from each of my letters and how much they meant to her. She also mentioned how on some occasions the friendship developed through our pen paling kept her going. It’s funny because I feel the very same way. A pre-occupied and overly stressed teenager connecting with a gentle and young at heart 94 year old woman? This unusual combination can be found only through the genuine friendship and true love found between pen pals. So thanks to you, Mr. Pen Pal, and the powers you possess in creating the most unadulterated method of communication.