This is an awesome story: In 1976, two 12-year-old girls were connected by a pen pal organization and started writing letters to each other. They grew up, got jobs, became mothers – but never stopped exchanging handwritten letters.
Now, the two women, one from Sweden and the other from the US, are preparing to meet for the first time. And, with funding from a Kickstarter project, one of the women and her son are making a documentary about the lifelong literary friendship.
Why are we making this film? Because no one writes real letters anymore. Because Lena and Melissa never stopped writing and 36 years is a really long time to keep a letter-writing friendship alive. Because it's an incredible thing to imagine these two women meeting, finally...Because, at the end of the day, this is why we are here: to connect with one another, to be human and to build lasting relationships.
Melissa and her son Sam have reached their funding goal and, so far, it looks like they'll be heading to Stockholm this summer to meet Lena and begin filming.
Melissa explains what this long relationship has meant to her in a personal essay on her website. The whole thing is very much worth reading.
Thirty-six years of letters from a girl living in a very different land gave me a worldview lens I otherwise never would have had, through which I saw a wholly divergent way of life. While my world was mostly limited to upstate New York, Lena was out seeing London and Rome and Moscow, and always sharing her visions and insights with me, and I am absolutely certain that it shaped the contents of my character and fueled the flame that would later send me out onto many a journey to see for myself other ways of living and being.
TheLocal.se also did a lengthy article on the pen pals and their upcoming meeting. According to the article, they've tried other means of communication, like email, but just didn't find it as satisfying.
It's always great to see these childhood pen pal relationships that survive into adulthood and continue to thrive, despite the existence of Facebook and Twitter and Skype. I wonder if there are any flourishing pen pal friendships now that will last into the decades ahead.
Perhaps surprisingly, there are still several organizations that exist to help connect pen pals from around the world. If you're interested, or have a child who is, we suggest you might check them out. (Of course, the world being what it is, you'll need to follow the usual precautions when meeting new people online.)
Pen pal services
InterPals (free service)
Students of the World (free service for students and teachers)
International Pen Friends (paid service)