Welcome to the Pen Pal Program of the Society of Friends (also called “Quakers”) in Pasadena, California. We want to start by reassuring you that we do not believe in converting people.
Our most basic belief is that there is that of God in everybody. Your pen pal on the outside may feel that they have been helped in their own lives and now they want to reach out to someone else. At the same time, they may be very busy people. They often have families, jobs, and do volunteer activities. Often, they don’t have time to write more than about once a month.
Having a pen pal is like any other friendly relationship. If it’s going to last, both people need to enjoy it. Here are some tips for an enjoyable relationship:
- Let your pen pal get to know you. What are you interested in? What are your hopes? What is your family like? What is your daily life like? If there are things that you don’t want to talk about, let them know that, too.
- Take an interest in getting to know your pen pal. But do not ask for a photo or information that could be used to find out where they or their family live or work. Our pen pal program recommends to pen pals on the outside that they not give their photos or contact information. However, feel free to send your photo and any other information that you wish.
- Satisfy yourself with the frequency that your pen pal can write. If you would like to write more often than your pen pal does, ask how they would feel about that. They may have no problem with it and may want you to be able to write as often as you like. But others may start feel guilty about not answering quickly. They may feel pressure to write more often than they really have time for and could decide to drop out of the program.
- Take care not to ask too many favors. This includes reading legal papers, making copies, doing research, and so on. If your pen pal isn’t busy and can do favors, then that’s fine. But many pen pals can’t take on more than writing letters.
- Don’t ask for gifts. If your pen pal asks when your birthday is or wants to send a Christmas gift, let them be the one to bring that up. Most pen pals expect to write letters but do not expect to also send gifts. Like other people you know on the outside, they might be comfortable financially or they might be struggling with money issues themselves.
- Do not make romantic or sexual suggestions. Your pen pal may experience this as threatening. If your pen pal is married or has a romantic partner, he/she may also feel that this is not good for their relationship with their partner and may stop writing.
- Enjoy the relationship with your pen pal. It’s likely that your pen pal is writing to you because they value the relationship with you. They may develop a real friendship with you. They may feel good about themselves because they are helping you. If the relationship lasts, it’s because both of you feel good about it. So, the two of you are creating more warmth and friendship in the world. This is a key purpose for our pen pal program.
These are just tips. They are not rules for every pen pal relationship. If you wonder whether your pen pal might be bothered by something, ask them about it. Also, let your pen pal know if something in the relationship is bothering you. Keep the lines of communication open. — Orange Grove Friends Meeting, a group of Quakers who meet every Sunday in Pasadena, California to worship together. June 21, 2019