A few weeks ago, I was standing in line at the post office after work. My friend had walked there with me. The walk from my work to the post office near Union Station is one of my favorites, especially on days that are like perfectly ripe summer plums — those days where I find myself in amazement over everything. I made my friend stop with me to squeal over adorable, teensy baby ducklings swimming in the pool of water outside of the Capitol building. I swooned over a large plot of what looked like mini sunflowers. I joyously took a photo for two lovers touring D.C. I felt so relieved seeing all of the lush, green leaves clothing the trees again. I smiled because I was walking with a truly great lady pal, having truly great lady convo.
I recently adopted this particular post office as the headquarters for incoming mail for my new project, Lovely Handwritten Notes. Lovely Handwritten Notes is my attempt to reclaim the lost art of letter writing, while helping out the post office a bit.
This was the second time during the week that my friend agreed to meet me and walk to the post office together, so she was well aware of my growing passion for letter writing. As we stood in line to buy stamps, our lady convo continued joyously, and tucked in it was a question from my friend — “Lovely Handwritten Notes,” she said looking at the three letters I had just retrieved from my P.O. Box, “How long did it take for you to come up with that?”
I started to think about this question, but then it was quickly lost in the continuation of our more important chatter concerning men, casual Fridays, and the “roaring twenties.” But I thought about it again later that night, mostly because I couldn’t exactly pinpoint the conception of the project. In fact, I was still trying to pinpoint exactly what it was supposed to be. So, where really did it start, and why? And what is it?
I began to look back through some of my previous blog posts, and I believe the entire project is nestled and woven throughout the lines of those past rough outlines. As evidenced in my previous blog post, I’ve been struggling to find my balance between the professional and creative worlds. This struggle grew after taking my Soul Vacation to Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, during which I wrote, and wrote, and wrote, and realized that I loved writing. However, during this writing extravaganza, I took a break to peruse an antique store. This perusing caused the intersection of my basic love of writing with the concept of sending this writing to others through the mail.
I was running my fingers along dusty relics and letting old magazine covers imprint themselves in my memory when I came across a collection of antique postcards. They were terribly romantic. They were aged photos and detailed drawings of places I know and love before I could have ever known I loved them. I even found a black and white one of my beloved California redwood trees. Another postcard was made out of actual leather with a witty, “Why the Dickens don’t you write?” branded on the front, to which I could only respond, “Good question.” The backsides of the postcards nostalgically requested, “ONE CENT for United States, and Island Possessions, Cuba, Canada, and Mexico — TWO CENTS elsewhere.” Thumbing through the boxes of postcards, I also found the occasional few with handwriting on the back. Little notes, from one person to another, from another time. Leftovers from moments of love. In this antique store, I realized that I wanted to write letters.
However, I didn’t want to just write letters. I wanted to write letters for a purpose. And yes, I wanted to do it to save the post office from its impending demise, but I wanted to save the post office for a greater reason. I innately knew there was a greater reason for why I was so attracted to this timeless courier service. Again, this reason was already woven in amongst the words I’ve written before.
Back in March, I wrote about a man who committed suicide on the D.C. metro. This act had deeply touched me. It made me contemplate the deficiency of human connection in the world, and ultimately the void of loneliness this deficiency leaves behind.
When I first started the blog for Lovely Handwritten Notes at the beginning of April, I was confused as to what I was really doing, but I knew there was a purpose. I just hadn’t connected all the dots yet. They finally connected when I received an email from a new follower of the project who was requesting a handwritten letter from me. After providing her address, she wrote, “Hope to receive a reply soon and thank you so much for being so kind to people!”
Kindness. That’s it. That is where everything comes full circle. My crisis with my professional trajectory revolves around wanting to be a “traditionally successful” worker, but doing so in a manner where I’m using my skills for the betterment of others. I shy away from my creative side, questioning whether it can be leveraged to do something for the “greater good.” So, here is this project, Lovely Handwritten Notes. It is an opportunity to use my creative side of writing and crafting to positively impact society through heightened connection. It is a chance to bring kindness to those weathered souls who may really need it.
Each week, I post a question on the project’s blog to which followers of the project may respond to by mailing in a handwritten note. I then share these responses on the project’s page. From time to time, I also post other nuggets of handwritten joy, and have hopes of someday partnering with selected nonprofits to get more letters sent to people who could really use a little warm fuzzy in their mailbox.
My project is now only two months old, but has already received letters and requests for letters from dozens upon dozens of beautiful people from countries around the world. When I write and receive these letters, I get a big smile on my face and a flutter in my heart. My smile only widens and the flutter only intensifies when I get replies from people telling me how my letter consequently left them with similar fluttering, smiling sensations. By giving of yourself, it appears, you also receive.
I’m always so humbled by the openness with which people write. They take their very souls and put them into words, stringing together imagery that can make my longest workday melt into a pool of rose water. I have received letters where the authors detail to me how the handwritten craft helped them to overcome the loss of a loved one. I have received letters where the authors describe their dreams for the future generations, so tender and hopeful. I have received eloquent descriptions of lands I’ve never been to, but to which I now feel connected.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama is quoted, “There is no need for temples, no need for complicated philosophies. My brain and my heart are my temples; my philosophy is kindness.”
Throughout five years of college, I conditioned my heart and I developed my mind and it has never been so clear to me that I did this ultimately out of a desire to breed kindness. Kindness through projects of social justice. Kindness through friendships forged in new environments. Kindness through sending handwritten notes to the hearts and to the minds of others.