From the moment I put this item on my “Kind Acts & Volunteering” list, I could not wait to cross this one off the list, especially after imagining how excited I would be if I got an anonymous letter of encouragement. However, I put this item on the list nearly a year ago and after completing it, am angry I waited this long.
A week ago, I went to purchase envelopes and stamps. I rarely send letters anymore – blame technology or maybe just a lack of common sense, but I remember asking my mom how to address a letter just a few years ago – so after I made my purchases I thought, if I have all these envelopes and stamps now so “Why just send one letter?” I decided that instead, I would send three anonymous letters of encouragement to people. I also worried that if I only chose only one stranger, if I got his or her address wrong, no one lived there anymore, etc, no one would receive my letter! I hoped that by sending three letters, at least one of the recipients would receive my message.
At first, I was not sure what I would write to cheer them up. Then I thought about the “15 Quotes that Will Inspire You and Make You Think” post I wrote the other day that consisted of 15 of my favorite quotes. People seemed to enjoy the quotes included there, so I decided that I would handwrite the 15 quotes for the three recipients, along with a message preceding and following the quotes. I tried to capture what I wrote to the people in the photos included in this post – in the pictures, for the sake of peoples’ privacy, I edited out all information except for the recipients’ first names – but if you cannot read my message, here is what the letters said:
Although I can assure you I don’t know you, I thought that maybe you could use a letter to brighten your day. I hope that if you or a loved one are going through a tough time right now, this letter will make you smile. I can assure you that things will get better. And even if you’re not going through a tough time, I hope that this letter has the same positive effect. Listed below are 15 of my favorite quotes I hope will inspire you and make you think:
- “What a comforting thought it is that the best day of your life may not have happened yet.” – Unknown
- “I’m bored is a useless thing to say. I mean, you live in a great big, vast world that you’ve seen none percent of. Even the inside of your own mind is endless; it goes on forever, inwardly, do you understand? The fact that you’re alive is amazing, so you don’t get to say ‘I’m bored.’” – Louis C.K.
- “Do one thing every day that scares you.” – Eleanor Roosevelt
- Sonder: n. “The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own—populated with [his or her] own ambitions, friends, routines, worries and inherited craziness—an epic story that continues invisibly around you like an anthill sprawling deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you’ll never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra sipping coffee in the background, as a blur of traffic passing on the highway, as a lighted window at dusk.” – The Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows
- “From what we cannot hold, the stars are made.” – W.S. Merwin
- “But often, in the world’s most crowded streets,/ But often, in the din of strife,/ There rises an unspeakable desire /After the knowledge of our buried life.” — Matthew Arnold
- “I want to be famous to shuffling men/who smile while crossing streets,/ sticky children in grocery lines,/famous as the one who smiled back./ I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,/or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,/ but because it never forgot what it could do.” – Naomi Shihab Nye
- “Remember that not getting what you want is sometimes a wonderful stroke of luck.” –Dalai Lama
- “Thank God for all I missed cause it led me here to this” – Darius Rucker
- “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.” –John Lennon
- “This too shall pass.” – Unknown.
- “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” – Milton Berle.
- “If not us, who? If not now, when?” – Hillel the Elder
- “What you do speaks so loudly that I cannot hear what you say.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
- “It is never too late to be what you might have been.” – George Eliot
I hope you have enjoyed these quotes as much as I do. Why have I written to you? Although I selected your name randomly from a phone book, I would like to think that fate brought this letter to you. All I ask is that someday, you do a kind act for a stranger.
Someone Who Hopes I Made Your Day a Little Brighter”
Earlier in the week, I was feeling slightly stressed as the end of my college career approaches, and although writing the letters took about two hours, the act was one of the most peaceful and fulfilling things I have ever done. I decided to listen to The Beatles as I wrote them and put John Lennon’s “Imagine” on repeat several times.
While trying to figure out how I would randomly select people, I first went to a website that listed surnames alphabetically. I decided I would start with last names that begin with A and go with a rather old fashioned approach: “Eeeny, meeny, miny, moe, catch a tiger by its toe, if he hollers let him go, eeny, meeny, miny, moe, my mother says to pick the very best one and you are IT spells it, the colors of the flag are red, white, and blue, I chose you!”
I then went to another website where I was able to search for people with the last name I landed on, along with their addresses, and used the same approach as I went through the list of people who share that last name. For the next two recipients, I looked for people with last names that begin with B, then C. A friend later asked, “Why didn’t you just use a random number generator?” and although I told him that would have been too easy, I had a lot more fun with this approach.
Although I virtually “crossed this item off the list,” I had so much fun completing this one, it was therapeutic, and I still have 47 letters and 6 stamps to go, so I hope to continue going through the alphabet and continuing to send more letters. If I continue to send more anonymous letters, I think it will be an incredibly exciting project to work on.
So has anyone else done something similar or want to cross this item off his or her bucket list now? I’d love to hear from you and about your experiences!
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