Updated: Jun 3
If you are new to Letters Against Isolation (LAI), welcome! We’re so happy you have chosen to volunteer with us.
It’s fun to decorate cards and stationery, but when it comes to actually writing the letters, some of us struggle. A little writer’s block is natural because not only are you writing a letter (something of a lost art these days!), but you are writing a letter to a complete stranger. So, we’ve compiled a few tips that I hope will help get the ideas flowing.
Earlier this year, when LAI solicited advice from the facilities we serve, we learned that our clients and their residents love LAI! Many eagerly wait to receive our letters because they’re so much fun. We also received feedback about what’s most popular with residents.
It’s always fun to learn more about different places in the world, so writing about where you live or places you’ve visited on travels is a good choice. What’s the climate like where you live? Does it snow there? What’s the main agricultural crop? Do you have active volcanoes around you like I do here in Washington State? Local or state history can be very interesting too.
Are there funny words or expressions that are used in your part of the country? One facility received a card from a volunteer in Texas that shared “Texas slang” terms. The facility said that their residents “had a blast” with that information!
Little stories are very popular, too. One facility said they’d received a story about a rat in the volunteer’s garden and garage. The writer included pictures and it made the staff and residents laugh. Write a fun paragraph about your pets, something funny that happened while you were running errands or at work, or something hilarious your child said. Keep it simple and light and I’m sure it will bring joy to the readers. Even something silly will work: A friend of mine lives in a rural area and has cows on her property. The cows and calves come straight up to the house and lick the windows. The pictures of cows staring into her living room always crack me up.
Speaking of pictures, it’s so easy these days to include photos within documents,
and people really appreciate getting cards and letters with images included. I print out pictures at Walgreens when they have a sale and glue them to cardstock. Then you have a ready-made subject to write about. I recommend sticking with scenery, architecture, nature, pets, and so on, rather than photos focused on people who are strangers to the residents, unless of course, it’s a picture of you or your family!
Writing about your hobbies is another fun topic. What do you do for fun? Remember that many of our letter recipients can’t get out and hike any more, but they might be interested in where you hiked and the wildlife you encountered. Do you like to cook? Sew? Crochet? Papercraft? Those are all things you can share when you write and even include pictures of your creations. And don’t forget to ask about hobbies the readers have enjoyed, which can be great conversation starters with others at the facility.
The Letters Against Isolation website has a section that includes “Dates of Distinction.” You can find these under the “Blog” tab. They are listed by month and there’s always something to write about. In the past, I’ve written about National Coffee day, Elephant Appreciation Day, and National Museum Day.
Finally, there are the simple but obvious things like favorite colors or favorite foods. Clients love hearing stories or getting cards that ask them questions and promote conversation, such as, “Of all your pets, which has been your favorite?” “What’s your favorite kind of cake?” “What sports do you follow?” I could write a five-page letter about my favorite foods or a new recipe I’ve tried. There are favorite animals, favorite flowers, favorite seasons, favorite weather…the subjects are just about infinite.
I hope this helps to spark some ideas and that with these tips, you find your letter writing easier and more fun!
And remember quality over quantity wins every time. It’s not the number of cards you send…