As I've mentioned before, I have several penpals who are in prison in various states on the US. My pals and I have a steady and uncomplicated arrangement with our writing. We don't talk on the phone, as many people seem to want with their penpals. Even if I did want to, it would not be right for me while I cannot talk to my husband in that way. I also don't visit my penpals; the guys would definitely be off-limits while my husband is in prison, and while the girls would probably welcome a visit, I can only stretch myself so far when I'm over there. So we just write, once every 4-6 weeks or so, and talk about wtuff I do and stuff that they are all interested in.
Recently I have been discussing the pros and cons of some of the US states as places to live in with my older guy in Pennsylvania. I had mentioned that Idaho looked as if it had a lot of the things I was looking for, and he said that he enjoyed the fishing there.
A few days ago I received a surprise package in the mail from my PA pal. It was a book, a National Geographic photo book about the natural history of Idaho. It cost him over $10 to send and I was totally humbled that he had sent it. He gets paid a tiny amount for the work he does in prison, and is a very proud guy who will not allow me to send stationary or money to cover any. And yet he wanted to give me something that would cost him more than 2 or 3 weeks to pay for.
I write to inmates because I am interested in people and I like getting mail. I don't really have any other altruistic motives, or a desire to "save" anyone. I've never received anything like this from a penpal before and I am both humbled and also really happy for Jon that he could do something that made him feel good too.