I publish this post this morning in utter awe of the opportunities that God places in front of me. It started at a ministry fundraising banquet a couple months ago. Hannah Brencher, who I didn’t know at the time, stood up and spoke some of the most amazing words on redemption I had ever heard in my life. Her voice, and her words, were captivating as the room hushed, clinging on on her every syllable. I had goosebumps and tears in my eyes. I had never heard anything like it. I knew I wanted to meet her.
I soon learned that Hannah was the founder of The World Needs More Love Letters. When she contacted me about needing professional headshots for her website, I was thrilled. However, nothing prepared me for the passion I would feel when I talked to her face to face at our coffee house meeting. You know how when you meet someone who is crazy in love with what they do, it’s just contagious? Everything about Hannah is contagious. Her joy, her passion, and her heart. We decided that in addition to the typical head shot session, we needed to create a styled shoot that told the story. Something a little more out of the box, just like her vision. Because the story is just too amazing not to be told.
Sweet friends. Meet Hannah Brencher.
I carried a mail crate and a couple hundred love letters into this photo shoot. Two years ago, these would have been props–found through scouring antique shops, hailed as swift pieces of nostalgia to remind me of the days when we used to wait by the mailbox for one another.
Today, these parcels make up my life. My career. They are proof to me that God can do a miraculous thing when we just listen to him whispering, “Come on, do something a little crazy for me.”
I am a professional love letter writer. I promise. It’s true.
I began planting love letters all across New York City in October 2010 and wrote over 400 letters to complete strangers in the year that followed those first letters. All of them addressed to people who would probably never meet me over coffee but had found me, by way of the internet, and read the promise I had blogged: If you need a handwritten letter, I will write you one. No questions asked.
While writing those first 400 were a somber, sometimes heartbreaking but beautiful process, I sensed the truth with every curve of cursive on the page: the world needed far more than my own love letters. I am willing to go out on a limb and say it–she probably needs them more now than ever before.
Today I am the founder of The World Needs More Love Letters, a global organization that uses social media to fuel the handwriting and mailing of love letters to strangers in need all over the world. Ten months & 6 continents later, nearly 4,000 love letters have been written so far.
This is my daily labor. My daily love. To learn about the letter writers. To find meaningful requests that others can pin their words beside. To use social media to rally & pull & challenge people from all over the world to dwell in one another & carry each other’s burdens for a while. To read & reread & re-reread some of the most beautiful & awe-inspiring letters I have ever laid fingers upon: truth & evidence that we are still so willing to pull off from the technology that takes in by elbows everyday to write letters, to find words of encouragement, for strangers who share our stories with us.
To whoever finds this letter… it belongs to you:
I trust the world when she tells me she is beautiful. When she pokes at my side and begs me to do a little daring; to just open my eyes a bit more. To quiet the distractions that flood me at the ankles. To actually look around.
It’s there, in the looking, that I stumble into people like you and realize you carry a familiar in your face because we’ve both learnt to sing the same songs of sorrow & hope. We are strangers until you hold me on paper & I hold your attention with the words you’ve needed to hear for far too long:
You deserve goodness. Adventure. Truth in every word strung out like a necklace and said to you.
And you are worthy.
You are lovely. As lovely as the sounds that stream from the saxophone of the old man in Central Park
And you are valuable.
You are bright. As bright as the sun that peeks from behind the buildings with a Big, Big City– tall like players who make a life out of jumping up to wrap their Big Hands around the Rims of a Net. To slam-dunk and dangle for a while.
You are bright as the stars that jut through the skyline like the tips of lead pencils poking through black cardstock. The light pours & pours with each poke.
You are all these things, the things that the iced coffee won’t ever whisper to you & the paycheck won’t ever say. The kinds of words that only live out loud when we say them to one another– when we tuck them deep in sentences & syllables. I am wishing for the world that they’ll find you well.
Suitcase Prop by the fabulous Our Hiding Place