How often do you talk to strangers, or people you see every single day but have no idea who they are?
They travel among us! Elevators, trains, sidewalks, lines at the fair, the grocery store… and yet we almost never have an actual conversation with one another. Sure, there’s the occasional “Good Morning” and my personal favorite, the over enthusiastic “How are you!”. Once upon a time, an actual question, now a 2 second greeting with no actual intention of inquiring as to how you are.
Go ahead, I dare you just once to tell someone how you REALLY are at 7:54am in the elevator as they reach for their cell… You: “I spilled coffee on myself already, but at least I’m not late! Although… I just realized this is a diaper bag I’m carrying and not my purse or briefcase… how are you!” Them: ……………… *shock*
“How Are You” is now a commonly used phrase simply meant to acknowledge your presence as another human being who seems to also have a pulse, with hidden rules of the following limited responses:
- Ignore them (with the exception of a nod)
- “Great!” – In the event you really are feeling great! That worked out well.
- “Good” – automated response ingrained in us by social etiquette; you are good, I am good, we are always good no matter what! Don’t you dare be less than good.
- “I am well, how are you…” *insert half grin*(again, no intention of an actual inquiry here and that person probably won’t respond before they exit your presence moments later…
- “Outstanding!” (For my military peeps) Sometimes I like to use this one just to stir things up a bit. It catches people off guard because it’s way too loud and enthusiastic and almost always makes their eyes pop as if to say “Whoa! Calm down!”
The point is we don’t even know HOW to talk to each other. We know how to Facebook, text all of our problems and feelings, some of us even blog! I know, it’s ridiculous.
What language is this? How can we do a better job to connect with each other when social media is our most common form of communication?
This was on my mind a lot this week with all of the things going on in Houston after the hurricane and flooding. People were doing this strange thing where they reached out to strangers in need. Communicating through volunteerism, monetary donations, compassion, kindness, team efforts. I was impressed, and inspired.
I started thinking about starting a letter project of some sort… and then I discovered that several of these projects already exist!
One that really captured my heart is the “To Love Ourselves” letter project. This particular project is women writing letters to other women of all ages that provide support and encouragement. The way it works is that someone who knows a woman that could use a little extra love and support submits a request for her. The person requesting the letters are asked to tell a little bit about what’s happening to their loved one, what they love most about the person and a few details about their personality. In turn, that request becomes an “Open Request”, and their registered writers or members can send that woman a letter from anywhere in the world.
The letters are addressed to the project directly first for a little proofreading. They actually send the letters to the recipient so it’s anonymous and doesn’t risk that individuals identity. It is a good deed, and it’s well organized.
Yesterday, I sent off my first letter. It was strange at first to hand write something, even stranger to be looking for stamps. What are those?! I usually only have a use for these around the holidays! Still, it felt great! To know that I have the opportunity to brighten someone’s day, to connect with another human being and hopefully let them know they aren’t alone. It’s one of the reasons I continue this blog.
The letter project encourages you to post a picture of your letters and tag them on instagram or other social media to increase awareness, but don’t show the recipients name or crop it out. Here is my first of many:
I would like to start a group that works directly with this project. If you are interested, please e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you know my digits, use them! This could be a great excuse for us to all gather around the table once in a while and start a real conversation, the kind that travels the world. The kind that inspires and encourages people who need it. The kind that maybe even despite all odds, makes the world a better place.
If it’s not your thing, that’s okay. This might be a little touchy feely for my fellas, but do the world a favor and pick up your phone and call someone tonight. They will probably ask if everything is okay about 20 times, because we rarely call each other anymore, but I think it should be the next retro-trend! Bring it on back like bell bottom jeans or guys with long hair and guitars… (ok, maybe not the bell bottoms!) Although, I hear suede is SO IN right now!
Whatever works for you, try to find your way back to the lost art of conversation, connection and leave a small shadow of hope in someone’s life. Don’t wait to get started, this life is a shorter trip than you think.
More Letter Projects you might be interested in: