February is the month of love—one of the most important yet hackneyed words in the English language. For millennia, writers, poets, and mystics have tried to capture the right words to encompass its multiple textures, yet they fail because love is so tied to action—love is a living, moving, thriving thing, communicated through embodying and engaging.
In that light, “The World Needs More Love Letters”, Hannah Brencher’s website, takes heart matters seriously, by putting them into action. As the name suggests, the website promotes connection the old-fashioned way, by encouraging volunteers to sit down and write a handwritten letter to a stranger in need.
Brencher got the idea while living in NYC, where she became lonely and depressed trying to navigate her life in the buzzing metropolis of 9 million. To cope, she started pouring her heart out onto the page. This evolved quickly into writing letters to strangers, which she would leave all over the city—in cafes, tucked into library books, and even at the United Nations—hoping to brighten their day.
Every month, the team highlights five to six people who have been nominated by family and loved ones to receive a bundle of handwritten love letters from people all over the globe. Nominees are those who have recently lost their job or entire business, are recovering from cancer, experienced a difficult birth, or just received a diagnosis, such as Parkinson’s disease.
All are ordinary people who need extra TLC to keep going, and there is something about the kindness of strangers that works its magic. As Brencher puts it, when something “shows up in the mailbox for you—there’s a power behind that you can’t touch.”
Brencher’s website and global initiative attests to how writing letters in our digital age is a lost but much needed art. In our paperless world, people have become used to connecting online, where we readily like, share, tweet and post, exercising our very human need to belong. But as much as we interact on social media, it doesn’t fully compensate for our offline inadequacies or reality itself. That’s where More Love Letters comes in, inviting people to go beyond the one second it takes to send a heart emoji and take the time to remind people why they matter. It’s about creating and investing time to reinvigorate our bonds.
The team works with 25,000 volunteers from around the globe, many who repeatedly write letters, galvanised by the gratitude and community letter writing creates. As one volunteer, who wrote to a 10-year-old girl who fell off a horse, commented on the organisation’s Facebook page, “Kindness is priceless, every letter a blessing.”