May 6th dawned bright and warm. I felt a flutter of nervous excitement carrying armfuls of flowers to church, an unusual three block walk to get across the marathon using 49th street. This was the culmination of Vancouver Unitarians first experience with the UU Mystery Pal letter exchange tradition and I wanted to create a beautiful backdrop for it to unfold.
Twelve pairs ranging in age from 4 to 80 were matched up by at least one common interest and had spent the month of April exchanging letters, drawings, and emails not knowing the identity of their pen pal. As the orchestrater of the exchange I had the pleasure of hearing the excitement and curiosity as pals discovered their letters each week. I heard from parents how much their children were enjoying the exchange and from adults having fun comparing notes on how fascinating, bright, and fantastic their pals were. Everyone tried to guess who exactly their pal was of course. My own four-year-old wasn’t sure he wanted to participate because it would be scary to sit at a party with someone he didn’t know. He didn’t want to be left out though so I told him I would sit with him at the party. As it turns out…
The day of the Big Reveal.
I had tables set aside in the Hall Annex with flowers, fruit, and snacks that pals brought to share. Place settings were marked with the famous Unitarian Universalists that each pair had been connected through—find your famous UU, find your pal, eat and talk together. After the whole congregation worship service, “The Work We Do”, let out Pals started to find their place and find each other. My four-year-old who was sure he wanted me to sit with him? He chatted easily with his Pal for more than half-an-hour; a month of writing letters had taken away the layer of strangeness that he would usually feel with an adult not in the family.
I looked around at the smiles, conversation, and earnest engagement unfolding and found it nothing short of magical. I’m sure some Pals will stay connected more than others, but everyone found a new friend at church. The length of time Pals spent together that morning showed real, meaningful, personal connections were made during a time we often talk to the same people within our age or interest cohort each Sunday.
For all those who missed participating this time around, we will do it again next year!