Dear John

I always fancied myself a bit of a weaver of words and creative

content. But compared to a jolly good friend of mine (and likely

a friend to many of you, too, if you happen to live in Mapleton),

I am a fake.

My friend of 38-plus years, John Ford, who has been happily

working at the Drayton Freshmart forever, is a prolific letter

writer and pen pal to over 85 lucky letter recipients.

John tells me he used to have over 100, but some “went home”

while others weren't quite as dedicated to the letter-writing task

as John still is.

I can barely imagine having one pen pal, let alone 85.

John tells me he's got pen pals in Africa, Australia, New Zealand,

China, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Japan, to name a few.

Some like to practice English as a second language on him, it

seems, but John doesn't mind. It's reciprocal. He gets to learn a

little about the country and the culture from a personal point of

view. And better yet, he gets to have friends all over the world.

When I asked John why he does it and why he keeps writing to

so many, he seemed a little lost for words, except to say that he

enjoys talking to people and finding out all about them. And

for anyone who happens to know John, they likely would agree

that he is a congenial chap who always makes time for a chat.

I'd say there's plenty of truth to that. John is a firecracker of an

HR person at the Drayton Freshmart, even though his official

title is more like “Grocery Attendant.”

I used to have a pen pal when I was a young lass in the UK.

Carrie was her name. She lived in Antwerp, Belgium, and was

the daughter of my mom's pen pal that she had had for over 50

years. Mom and “Auntie Ninnie” had become pen pals during

the war, and it was lovely to read some of the old letters and

find out what was happening on the home fronts.

Carrie and I wrote faithfully back and forth for years. It sure

was nice to get handwritten notes in the post box, but then

years later, Carrie joined a convent and became a nun. I don’t

think I had anything to do with that choice! We lost touch after

that happened, until many years later. We hooked up again

and wrote a few times back and forth, but our pen pal letters

didn’t continue, unlike John and his faithfulness. John doesn’t

have a computer or any sort of technology. He has his hands,

his thoughtfulness and kind words, with pen at the ready and

stamps for the journey.

So, yes, I have to give great kudos to John.

He is a bit of a letter writing hero to me and every time I start

thinking that I am a prolific writer, I think of John, and I smile

and then I lower my own flag a little. RR

Stories Behind the Stand