Dear America: The Importance of a Letter

By Jessica Burkard — Think about how it feels to get mail.

Okay, I’m not talking about bills or paychecks; I’m talking about letters or cards from friends and family. You get excited, and the anticipation of what someone wrote is so overwhelming that you tear the envelope apart in a hurry and devour the contents.

Well, maybe that’s just me, but I’m sure that there’s a bit of that in all of us at times.

However, my students in South Africa have never written or received mail before.

So, you can only imagine how quickly their eyes brightened and smiles widened when I simply said, “We’re going to do something called pen pals where you write to my friends in America and they will write back.”

They were ecstatic.

As soon as I gave them the paper and told them the basics of what they should write to their friends in America, they grabbed markers and crayons and decorated their letters to no end. What was more entertaining for me personally was the questions and stories that some of my 7th grade students wrote.

“Do you like ice cream?”

“I want to tell you a story. Once upon a time there were the Egyptians…”

“Please give me your phone number so I can call you everyday when I am bored.”

“Is Tupac alive? Some say he is in movies and they say he is alive, but I don’t know.”

The list of questions goes on and on. However, one of the most touching parts of the entire process of writing these letters is that each of these students wrote to my friends in America and said that they love them. These kids have yet to see a face, and some don’t even know their pen pal’s name yet, but on multiple occasions, I have had a student come up to me to make sure I told my friends that my students in South Africa love them.

So that is my purpose in writing this blog today. My South African students want to say they love you.

Also, I wanted to give a special shout out and thanks to my 7th grade pen pals from the USA!

Thank you Matt Black, Lisa Brass, Matt Brennan, Charlie Busalacchi, Blake Gleason, Sam Hartman, Kaitie Hau, Erin Hilt, Kevin Huls, Haley Jackson, Sydney Kueter, Emily McDonough, Lauren Patterson, and Matt Ruvolo. You have no idea how much I appreciate your willingness to do such a kind thing for my students! Believe it or not, your letters could really make a difference in these children’s lives and they will never forget you as I hope you will never forget them.

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