The cool thing is, every one of these pieces of mail is a friendly welcome, sent by people I don't know. What are they welcoming me into, you may be wondering? Into the League of Extraordinary Penpals - which has been living up to its name.
I'd never joined an online-based snail mail penpal club before, and this one is new, turning just two years old this February. It is based in Québec, which appealed to me a great deal, as both a Canadian and a French-second-language speaker who used to work in the bilingualism field. So I decided to join. On January 5th. I was introduced to the online Facebook community on January 11th.
The welcomes - from complete strangers who didn't even demand a reply - started coming on January 12th. Yes, you read that date correctly. That's the very next day after the Facebook group first heard about me. Somehow, six club members (and counting - I have received a new welcome nearly every day) found the time to write a short but sunny note, address it & put a stamp on it (in several cases, decorating the envelope or choosing a fancy card), and take it to the post box. The warmth and inclusiveness, from complete strangers across the miles who ask nothing in return, have stunned me. Given my work as an Anglican priest, this is my ideal for my own and our church's approach to people who come across our path. I hope that we offer people this kind of hospitality, too.
You need to know that I don't usually rely on a good first impression to set the tone for the long haul. To quote Canadian Shania Twain, "That don't impress me much." Let me explain...I know first impressions can turn people off, and so I try to create a good one myself, whenever I can. But I've misinterpreted others' first impressions enough times, that I don't consider them to be the last word. I really don't think it makes sense to take the very first word that seriously. There are too many things we don't know, when we first meet someone - and that applies whether it's a person, an informal group, or an organization. On any given day, so many things can affect our judgment of that first impression - including our own mood - that I think it's wise to be forgiving and give them the benefit of the doubt. I believe in second chances. And this approach has held me in good stead in life. I would have missed out on one of my best friends of two decades now, for example, if I'd trusted my first impression.
So I prefer to gather more information before I make decisions. But I can say, with no small amount of confidence, that The League of Extraordinary Penpals has given me the info I need. Six welcome notes, already? Really? And many more friendly comments and offers of snail-mail friendship through the online group? If it had been one note, I would have been charmed. But six? I'm bowled over. Way to make a first, second, third, fourth, fifth and sixth impression!