The World Needs More Love Letters

There’s something about getting real mail, letters in particular, that can’t be replaced with emails, tweets, WhatsApp messages, SMS, etc.

When my friend Joya asked me last summer if I wanted to participate in ‘The World Needs More Love Letters‘, I thought sure why not. I wasn’t in the right state of mind to be thinking too deeply or analyzing what for – instead I just thought whatever could be done to ease my pain and loss would be ok. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about getting letters from total strangers, but if it could somehow fill a little bit of the hole that I felt I had or just to brighten my day, I was all for it.

Not only did the editors accept my story for letter writing, but they also featured it on Day One of their ’12 days of lover letter writing’ campaign over the Christmas holidays.

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I wasn’t expecting such a response. I received over 450 letters from 11 countries including the USA, Canada, France, Netherlands, UK, Switzerland, Australia, Sweden, Denmark, Italy and Mexico. Letters came from 49 out of the 50 States in the USA (no letters from Wynoming). Every letter was read before it reached me because we weren’t sure what to expect. What Joya found was that not only were the letters overwhelmingly positive, they also contained love from afar, encouragements, prayers, thoughts and motivation for me to succeed.

People are wonderful. I was blown over by the responses and the inherent goodness in people, young and old.

Children, teenagers to adults from around the world sent letters that were poignant, sweet, raw, and insightful. I couldn’t stop reading them. People shared similar tragedies in their life, others wanted to reach out with words wrapped in a hug, and others just wanted to show that they care for another fellow human being. The letters are full of words of wisdom, philosophy, heartbreak, art and poems.

It’s nice to know that people are inherently good and everyone shares a life of struggles, love, joy and humour. These real emotions somehow get lost in translation with all the digital ways we can communicate so it’s nice to know that ‘The World Needs More Lover Letters‘ exist.

Getting a letter (i.e. words on paper, drawings, photos, postcards, etc.) in the mail is real, tangible, and more supportive and comforting than you know.

The box of letters of 450+ letters I received.
The box of letters of 450+ letters I received.

The secret to changing the world

This is for the garbage

If you didn’t know, there’s actually a school called the School of Life (reminds me a little of the movie School of Rock and Jack Black’s unique way to inspire kids). There’s plenty of nuggets of inspiration to be found in the School’s courses, musings, blog posts, and, more recently, a series of books on guiding people through life and everyday living. As a birthday gift, John Paul Flintoff’s “How to Change the World” was an unexpected surprise as I welcomed in my mid-30s. I’m not a fast reader, but with a title like this, I was happy to take the time to learn about Flintoff’s unique look and perspective on making a difference – he even signed my copy (photo below)!

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The brief intro I found on the School of Life website about the book is pretty much self explanatory:

We all want to live in a better world, but sometimes it feels like we lack the ability to make a difference. John-Paul Flintoff offers a powerful reminder that through the generations, society has been transformed by the actions of individuals who understood that if they didnít like something, they could change it.

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Broken into 4 parts (Introduction, How to Start to Make a Change, What Needs Changing, and How, and Conclusion), Flintoff uses poignant and personal stories and accounts on how famous and not-so-famous people have changed things for the better – more importantly, the what, why, and how. It comes down to not just having lofty goals of world peace, but of knowing what you want, being connected to people, building on relationships, and doing what is possible, step-by-step, around you. And, one of the ways to go about it is to think about what you do and how it makes you feel. Here’s a collection of some of my favorite quotes from the book:

Changing the world, in other words, feels good – better than pursuing narrowly selfish interests, better even than having your feet massaged while you eat chocolate.

It’s impossible to overstate the importance of this point: if you don’t know what you want to fix, it can’t be done.

“Charismatic leadership has not freed us and it never will, because freedom is, by definition, people realising that they are their own leaders.” Diane Nash

We may think that solving world poverty is the more important pursuit, but changing the world is also about considering our own interests and skills – we will be most effective if we do what comes naturally to us.

A good world is not a world where everybody fixates on global problems to some externally imposed framework of importance’. A good world is one in which people find meaning in the particular things they do – and that means a world that has a place for beauty, creativity and play.

If we present only the negative aspects of what the future holds, people will switch off altogether.

“Until you dig a hole, you plant a tree, you water it and make it survive, you haven’t done a thing. You are just talking.” Wangari Maathai

And in case you wanted to know more about the book directly from the mouth of John-Paul Flintoff, here’s a TEDx Athens talk of him explaining the grand scheme of doing something small to change the world.

There’s also a parallel feeling in a recent WIRED article I read about what current and future “start-up” entrepreneurs and innovators want to achieve with their ideas. Those interviewed admired Bill Gates, not Steve Jobs…

This is not the Bill Gates of Windows; itís Gates as philanthropist, eliminating polio, funding clean water and third world innovation. To the mostly younger staff, Gates outranks Steve Jobs. Twenty years ago I would not have guessed that fervent Apple users would anoint Gates as their role model and hero, but his work for the global good was mentioned too many times to ignore. Gates has become this generationís Andrew Carnegie, a man whose reputation as a robber baron has been forgotten in the wake of his largesse.

Ready to change the world? Or are you doing it already?