One day I will be able to say to my Little Ones: "This is how your Mommy came to write 207 Love Letters to 207 Strangers"
We sat in over-sized Alice chairs admiring the spouts of our teapots, appropriately short and stout, as they poured a sweet elixir into the bottom of our antique cups. We clinked our tea cups together and we made a toast. A Toast to Loneliness, Calluses and Love Letters. Two Months of Loneliness. Two rounded calluses on my writing hand. Two Hundred & Seven Love Letters Written.
Signed. Sealed. Delivered.
I sat across from my Best Friend this weekend, a girl who has shown me a whole new dimension to what it means to miss someone in the last four months. We entangled the sharing of three cups of tea with dozens of Stories in one of my favorites spots in New York City. I moved my hands with each story, motioning all around me, to show her what I have learned from living in this Big City.
"I think I have learned Loneliness best," I told her.
Learned to greet Loneliness as if it were an old friend. Kiss it on the cheek and allow it to kiss back. Soft & Warm. Somehow Soft & Warm.
I never knew that Loneliness could be such a comforting feeling until it propelled me to write 207 Love Letters. Thank You, Loneliness, for teaching a lost girl just how to script her Sadness into Love.
As you may remember, two months ago I began writing love letters to strangers on the 4 train. I became quite accustomed to the thrill of writing to strangers and leaving my letters behind as if they were my own personal trail of bread crumbs. Central Park. Grand Central Terminal. A Slew of Diners claiming to have the World's Best Coffee. Through these letters I learned to pour out my heart to perfect strangers as if it were the same fine brew that spouted from my teapot. Leaving Letters Behind. For Some Romeo. Some Juliet. Some Heloise. Some Other Soul Who Needed Words That Day.
But the true gift behind these letters unveiled itself when you became involved. When we all stopped talking about Love Letters and we just started writing them. Asking for Them. Yes, yes, it all began when you pulled up a chair at my Love Letter Tea Party. Sitting Snug Between Ink, Stationary, Loneliness and a Cluster of Forty-Four Cent Stamps.
I never imagined on the day I promised a Snail Mail Love Letter to whoever emailed me their address that I would find my inbox full that night. Full of Requests from All Over the World. From Japan to Utah. From Canada to California. Some with Stories Tied to the request. Some Sad. Some Happy. Some in Desperate Need of a Linkage. Over 200 Love Letter Requests.
"So what are you going to do now?" My mom asked me on the phone that night, knowing that I was already quite overwhelmed by promising a handwritten note.
"I'll start writing," I told her. Because as much energy as it takes to write over 200 full pages of letters, I think it takes a lot more courage to ask a complete stranger to write you a love letter. I sent up a prayer to God for Strong Fingers, Strong Words and a little extra help on the postage, and then I began writing.
Anywhere. Everywhere. Each One Different. Giving me great practice in seeing all the ways one can dress up a single word. Love.
Some days writing Love Letters allowed me to tuck away my own Loneliness. Other days my Loneliness did her own little Macarena all over the stationary. And on the best days, my Loneliness unearthed itself from Behind the Ink & Signatures. Emerging like an extreme makeover contestant, coming out looking Radiant. Looking Like Love.
To all of you who asked for a letter, thank you for giving me the chance to write to you. To shatter the word "stranger" 207 times. That is an absolute dream come true for a girl adores any chance to shed the skin right off of that word. That is the best Christmas Gift I could have ever hoped to receive. You gave my Loneliness a purpose and for that reason I will never regret a single swooping of my cursive.
Many of You wrote your own Love Letters and allowed me to do the honors of sprinkling them all over Manhattan. Thank you for letting me pick the perfect spot. The perfect chance for someone else to hold that letter well & good. A Table in a Cafe. A Shelf of the NYC Library. A Pew in St. Pat's Cathedral.
And a few beautiful souls sent stamps. They supplied the fuel for those Love Letters to do their own globe-trotting. Thank you for those stamps in the mail. For Pulling Out a Faded Book of Liberty Bell Stamps, Sitting Folded & Pristine in Your Wallet, and Handing Them to Me. Trusting I would put them straight to work in the corner of some envelope.
But one person in particular deserves the largest thank you of all. I have never been driven so quickly to try to tame my tears as when a box showed up at my Bronx apartment. Addressed to "As Simple as That".I knelt down in my hallway, and opened the unaddressed package to reveal a Full Box, Bulging with Brand New Toys.
This is to the guy who sent a box full of toys to my class of preschoolers who might not have had Christmas gifts otherwise.
You attached a message that said you were not one for writing love letters. I hope you see that you wrote the very best Love Letter of all.
You taught me with your Gift that we all can write Love Letters. Some with Pencil. Some with Generosity. Some with Ears that Listen. Others with Hands that Hold. One way or another, we all have great potential to send a Love Letter off into this world. To Write Our Lives Into A Love Letter, with the steps we take and the lives we touch.
I grew up saying that I would one day become a Professional Love Letter Writer and maybe I have finally reached that point. After setting down 207 final points of punctuation, I think I am finally there. And what have I learned from the calluses, the loneliness and the inbox full of requests?
That we are all in need of a Love Letter from time to time. A reminder that we are doing o.k. We are doing just fine. That someone, somewhere is sending us Light & Love. Be it from the Biggest City or the Smallest Town. With the Loudest Voice or the Quietest Whisper. To the One With the Toughest Exterior or the Most Broken Interior.
Turns out the world really does need more Love Letters and it looks like we have only just begun writing them.