Dalton Academy, a catholic orphanage, decided to contact schools and get pen pal participants for the orphanage's older children. The idea was extremely successful, but in ways that no one expected. One of the orphanage's children, Jeff Sterling, participated in this program and was assigned Nicholas Duval from Lima, Ohio. They wrote back and forth for a little over a year before finally meeting. On accident. Here we have the documentation of the moments leading up to that point.
Dear Pen Pal Number 36 from Lima, Ohio,
I've been assigned to write to you by Dalton Academy: Orphanage of Religion, Faith and Education. I'm not exactly sure how to start this. So, I guess I'll just tell you about myself, but don't think I'm overly conceited or anything.
My name is Jeff Sterling, I'm seventeen. I'm supposed to be Catholic, but fuck that. The nuns don't really like me here. I've been at Dalton since I was two and probably will still be here until I turn eighteen, which is only a year away, thank god. My birthday was yesterday. I celebrated alone, so I decided to write this letter to you at one in the morning in hopes for having company for my birthday. If you don't return my letter, I'll completely understand. Who wants to talk to someone like me?
Hey there! So good to finally hear from you! My whole show choir signed up for the pen pal program and I was the first to get a letter back, so thank you. You made me the popular one here in the McKinley Glee Club.
My name is Nick Duval and I turned seventeen about three weeks ago. I had a lonely birthday as well, so don't feel bad. Though, I do want to wish you the best of luck in the next year to getting adopted and having the time of your life. I wouldn't give up hope, and if anything, we can always come and adopt you.
I'm not Catholic, for obvious reasons actually. One, I'm Atheist and second, I'm gay. In my past experiences, those two don't mix very well with Catholicism. But, understand that I will not get down on you for your beliefs as long as you do the same for me. Though, you seem like a sweet enough guy.
And, I want to talk to someone like you.
I like you already,
Sorry it's been a while since I've written, I got in trouble for what you wrote before. One of the sisters took your letter because I was so red in the face. She thought you had sent something dirty. I still had to go to confession though.
As for what you told me though… About you being gay… I think that's very nice. I've never met a gay person before, considering where I am, and I've always wanted to talk to one. Not because you are different or a different species, like the Church suggests. I want to talk to someone to… understand. I think I might… I mean. I don't- I was never sure. The Church doesn't let me think clearly. Everything is too complicated. I just want to understand how you knew. Does it just happen? Or do you have to focus on just liking men?
I don't mean to sound rude. I just want to be sure in case I am… Like you.
I hope sister Roberta doesn't read this,
My fingers were crossed she didn't read it.
Before I get into this, I just wanted to ask if you know anyone in Dalton named Blaine Anderson, one of my friends got him as their Pen pal. If you know him, give him a big hug from the New Directions and his pen pal Kurt.
I'll be more than happy to help you out. I know how conflicting things can be when you have all these other people putting pressure on you. I went through the same thing, but always remember: There are people who will always love you. If all else fails, you have me. Who, by the way, thinks that you are very brave for (almost) admitting that you might be gay. Even if you might not know, taking the first step to figure it all out is huge. You're a bigger person than I was. It took me a drunken night at Santana's to figure myself out. Now I imagine you might be gasping trying to figure out my implication and fighting to keep this piece of paper from the nuns. But if not, let's make sure that doesn't happen. I just want to make clear: it's not what you think. When I was drunk, I lost my filter and apparently starting talking about this guy in my history class, Sebastian. Since then I have come to terms and realized what it means to finally understand my sexuality.
Now, I don't imagine that you've ever been with someone. DON'T BLUSH. And that's fine. It might actually help you. But, when I look at someone that I think is attractive, I don't get intense feelings. Like those south of the equator. (I'm going to ask you again to either not read this in public or control your blushing). You don't need the really intense and obvious feelings to figure things out. Just be honest with yourself. Do you want to know what's behind the plaid skirts or the sweater vests? I know that's a terrible example, but it's the truth. Which set of feelings and personal situations do you want to deal with in a relationship… As well as what equipment? Though, being interested in either doesn't mean that that is your sexuality. There's also that internal voice, telling you that he's the one. He's the one that you just want to talk to or spend time with or kiss or love. It shouldn't be a conscious choice. You just kind of know.
Hope this helped,
You're lucky the nuns didn't read your letter. So very lucky. I could've gotten locked in confession for that, and the priest doesn't even like me that much.
Thank you for answering me so quickly. It's kind of been hell over here and I needed someone to talk - or write - to besides my roommate Blaine Anderson. Yes, I gave him your hug and he says thank you.
Now, what you were saying before, about… Those things.
I have not been with anyone; again I'm in a Catholic orphanage, the only person I spend time with alone is Blaine, and I'm not even one hundred percent sure of what it feels like to feel attracted to someone. I mean, I've been told my whole life to never notice the physical things in people and I'm so confused… I just want to know who I am. Is that so much to ask for?
Why are you saying sorry! This isn't something that you easily accept, and I understand that. Besides, it's all you. There is no one pressuring you or pushing to become or admit to being gay. Relax, Jeff. I'll talk to you no matter what you decide. You seem like such a nice person.
And, I hate to say this. But Jeff, live a little. Go outside and take a look around. See what you like. There are some pretty cute guys in Ohio, and I mean you live here right.
I'm only flirting with you,
Jeff? What happened to you? You haven't spoken to me in two weeks… Is everything alright?
Please still be alive,
JEFF! DEAR GOD! ANSWER ME! I'm worried sick… Was it something I said? I didn't mean to offend you with the flirting; I was just trying to make you smile. I know how Blaine can sometimes be over zealous and exhausting. Kurt's letters can be very revealing. I didn't mean anything by it, I'm sorry. I was just trying to be friendly.
Please answer me,
I'm sorry for my absence… The nuns found the letters you sent me, and I got into trouble. Lots of it. I was sent to the priest and had to talk with him for six hours everyday for two weeks, (I'm writing this in church actually). I'm really sorry.
I wasn't offended by what you said. It actually made me smile. So, thank you, for everything.
You are right; there are some cute guys in Ohio. I ran into this lovely boy from New York at the library. He had these bright eyes and a warm smile. Though, he didn't really understand the concept of personal space. He kept touching my arm and asking me if I wanted to have a job. I tried to explain to him that I was underage and working papers weren't available to me, but he didn't quite understand. Are all boys this confused when it comes to working age limits? Just wondering.
Men are confusing,
Mercedes had to give the Heimlich maneuver during lunch today because of your letter. So thank you.
The reason I was choking? You are too innocent to even be walking around. I mean a job. Jeff, he wasn't referring to a summer job or a part time job. He was talking about like… blow or hand type jobs. I'm just realizing now that you probably don't know what they are. This is now really awkward because I'm writing this in pen and am too lazy to cross out or erase that last part. I know that if you really think hard about it, you're going to get what a job really is to that guy.
So, when you stop blushing, write back to me.
I'll be waiting,