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The kindness of strangers


Kindness (Photo credit: -RejiK)

We expect kindness from our friends and family, whether or not we always receive it. And if we aren’t always kind to those same friends and family members, we usually have the good sense to feel guilty. Kindness doesn’t cost a lot to give, but the cost for its absence can be very high. Anyone who’s paying any attention can see that, as a species, we are not particularly kind. We divide ourselves into tribes—family, neighborhood, background, nationality, race, religion, region, age, personal interest, political affiliation, and on and on—and all too easily dismiss or revile those who are not in one of our tribes.

Whoever you are, I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.

–Blanch DuBois, A Streetcar Named Desire, Tennessee Williams

Last week, I came across a Ted Talk by Hannah Brencher who has started a movement to be kind to strangers that is spreading all over the globe. The idea came to her when she hit a very low point in her life living in New York City after graduating from college. To help herself break out of her own depression, she wrote anonymous love letters—dozens of them—and left them all over the city for strangers to find.

And now The World Needs More Love Letters coordinates the exchange of love letters between strangers all over the world. You can sign up to be notified to write a letter once a month—or to request a letter for someone you know. You can read the stories of some of the strangers who have found love letters in cafes, on college campuses, taped to their vehicles, or stuck inside the pages of library books.

If you wrote a love letter to someone whose face you wouldn’t see when they read it, who wouldn’t know it was you who had sent it, and who would never be able to tell you how it affected them—would you still do it?

I have never been a big fan of Christmas and the insanity leading up to it. And I know that the holidays can be a depressing time for lots of people. So this year, I’m going to write a love letter to a stranger each day during the month of December and put it where someone will be sure to find it. Maybe someone with whom I’d disagree politically. Maybe someone whose religious beliefs would offend me. Maybe someone I’d never want to hang out with. But still, a member of my species.

Thank you, Hannah, for your kindness to so many strangers. What a wonderful way to make a difference!

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