During a coffee break one recent afternoon in the Starbucks at Millennium Station, co-workers Yam Chan and Tichina Moore noticed a letter tucked amid the coffee bags in the display stand.”Pssst … Hey Coffee Lover,” read the envelope. Chan and Moore hesitated momentarily before slicing it open.
Inside, a pretty striped card bore a handwritten note that quoted F. Scott Fitzgerald, offered “a good dose of random love” and was signed, “a friend.”
It was an anonymous love letter meant for whomever chanced upon it. And in the corner of the card, a clue to its origins: moreloveletters.com.
Since its official launch a bit over a year ago, the World Needs More Love Letters project has sprinkled some 5,500 handwritten love letters across the country and around the world, from Brazil to Australia, with the goal of brightening the day of whoever happens to find them, said the project’s 24-year-old founder, Hannah Brencher, who lives in North Haven, Conn. A few have popped up in Chicago.
Though written by and to perfect strangers, the human connection and tangibility of handwriting on stationery strike a personal chord.
“It made my whole week better,” said Moore, 25, an editor at McGraw-Hill Companies. The random kindness inspired her to mail her mother a letter saying she loved her.
Brencher hatched the idea during a particularly bad day in October 2010. Recently graduated from Assumption College in Worcester, Mass., Brencher had moved to New York City to work with the Augustinian Volunteers, a Catholic community service program, and found herself so lonely and depressed that she would “cry pretty profusely” on the train.
One day, Brencher noticed a woman on the train who appeared similarly downtrodden. Impulsively, she started writing her a letter of encouragement and felt her own mood lift.
Brencher started writing love letters and leaving them in coffee shops, coat pockets, bathrooms and lobbies. She wrote a blog post about it, and within 24 hours received 100 requests from people asking that she write letters to loved ones who could use a dose of cheer.
The project today has an army of anonymous love-letter leavers, including a core team of 11 writers and thousands more contributors who could write letters at any time. People who find the letters — in library books, shopping carts, in the doggie waste bag holder at the park — post grateful testimonials on the website: A woman found one on the train the day her mother was diagnosed with cancer, another in a bathroom a week after her fiance broke up with her.
It can seem that the letters find the people.
Ruth Werstler, founder of the New Life for Old Bags project that turns plastic bags into sleeping mats for homeless people, was working a booth at the Chicago Green Festival at Navy Pier this May when she noticed an envelope on a nearby table. It read, “For you.”
The handwritten letter inside was long and tender: “I love you for all the amazing things you do you think no one notices,” it said. “I love you for the uniquely caring way you approach everything in your life.”
“I get choked up reading it, which is crazy,” said Werstler, 45, who keeps the letter on her dresser. “That’s what everyone wants to hear, that you matter.”
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