Elise Hu, NPR correspondent and Millennial (the “loneliest generation”), shares her want for connection in the course of the international pandemic. In her fear and loneliness she wrote letters to 50 strangers throughout America.
Per week into California’s stay-at-home order, when our now-familiar mixture of anxious, lonely and stressed emotions had been nonetheless model new, I craved connection. But not the sort accessible from a display. Inside my pockets I discovered 10 stamps leftover from the vacations, and I put out a tweet: “Today I am going to write letters to send through the post … [Direct message] me your snail mail address if you want a random letter. But heads up I only have 10 stamps & they are of Santa.”
On the primary day, I wrote to strangers in Arizona, California, Missouri, New York, Texas and Washington. The subsequent day, I wrote to an 11-year-old who was born in Plano, Texas, the place I grew up. I wrote to a USPS letter provider from Minnesota who requested a letter for himself. The 10 stamps ran out shortly, so I restocked. By the time I used to be completed sending an analog paper letter to anybody who requested one, I’d written 50 letters to addresses in each state apart from Alaska and the Dakotas.
When they requested letters, folks talked about little bits about themselves: That they stay in my previous stomping grounds (Austin and St. Louis). They talked about their youngsters or their pets. They talked about listening to NPR after I broadcasted from Seoul. They principally requested if it was too late to request a letter.
A handful of requests got here from longtime buddies. It tickled me that folk who can name me simply needed this type of expression of love, all the identical. They — and the others — had been clearly as keen to join as I used to be, amid stay-at-home orders introduced on by this disorienting international pandemic.
These days, we’re stripped to our most primal longings to survive. And survival for people means connection and communion wherever we will discover it. It may be particularly essential for my technology. 1 / 4 of millennials mentioned in a YouGov survey final 12 months that they haven’t any acquaintances; 27% reported having no shut buddies and 30% mentioned that they had no greatest buddies. And that was earlier than the disaster hit.
I’m “very online,” so it’s clearly a lot simpler attain far multiple particular person at a time with a tweet or an Instagram publish. I may have merely despatched personalised emails to everybody who requested. But the method of sitting down to compose a letter by hand, addressing an envelope and stamping it’s infused with additional intention. It felt like a means to present an old school sort of caring, the sort that would pierce by means of the space and approximate a hug.
I needed to be express in signaling the letters got here from an actual human, and nothing automated, so discovering methods to personalize each was key. When I ran out of my private stationery, I discovered my four-year-old daughter Isa’s doodles in a pocket book and wrote my letters on these pages.
Our lives are upended, uncontrollable and contained by the partitions of our properties. So after I wrote, I requested of us what their expertise of this cocooning felt like. Were they scared and unsure, like me? How did they fill their days? Find pleasure? I requested many individuals what they realized about themselves throughout this troublesome interval.
I didn’t share quotes or poems, as I generally do after I ship playing cards or letters to buddies. Instead, I wrote concerning the rhythms and happenings of my days. I wrote about Isa singing full-throated your entire time she was on the again of a tandem bike along with her dad. I wrote about how comfortable my neighbors are to see one another, and the way we enjoyment of shouted conversations from throughout the road. I wrote about how lonely I really feel, despite the fact that I’m quarantined in a home with my household, which incorporates the seemingly nonstop quantity of my three babies. And I allow them to understand how writing these letters filled up my emotional tank, despite the fact that we didn’t know each other.
I by no means anticipated replies. The satisfaction for me was in writing to folks and understanding they’d obtain one thing bizarre and uncommon. But the replies ended up being one of the best half. When the recipients obtained them within the mail, a few of them didn’t wait to write again by hand. They despatched me direct messages on social media with pictures of themselves and the letters now of their possession…
Continue studying Elise’s piece, What I Learned About Writing Letters to Strangers Across America on NPR.com.