My senior year probability and statistics class was where I learned the true importance of writing letters. My teacher would always be asked by parents, "Why are you having my kid write a letter? What does it have to do with math?" To which he would reply, "It has nothing to do with math. And I do it because everyone should write and receive letters."
Each month one of our in-class assignments was to write a letter. The recipients changed each time: once it was to write to a family member, another was a friend you hadn't seen in awhile, yet another was to write to a teacher who had greatly impacted your life. Mr. McCluskey is the wisest man I have ever met. Through his class, I have sent so many letters, and because of his class, I have received a lot of letters. One of the rules was that you could not tell the recipient that the letter was written for a homework assignment. Mr. McCluskey always provided the envelopes, and we would pay for stamps. Every time we did this assignment, I asked McCluskey to pick out a student in the room, and I would pay double the price for stamps so that I was partially connected with someone else's letter. It was my little way of feeling connected with another class member anonymously.
Here at Loyola University Chicago, we receive an email whenever we get mail because it has to be picked up in the mail room. I order a lot from Amazon -- very random things, from boxing gloves to an obsessive amount of stationery. So, the people at the mail room know me pretty well. There are two lines at the mail room: where you pick up and where you send out. There has never been a line for where you're sending the letters and packages, at least since I've been at Loyola. It seems that people only ever receive them. Why are we not returning the favor? I try and send out at least three or four letters a week, to friends, to strangers, to loved ones.
Speaking of writing letters, one of my role models is someone who truly understands the value in writing letters. Hannah Brencher is my role model. Though I've never met her in person, I feel like I relate to this woman on such an emotional level. Brencher moved to New York City after she graduated from college and felt absolutely lost. Her mother had written her letters, so she began to find herself by writing love letters to strangers. There is an amazing TED talk by her all about her initiative to "make love famous."
Brencher has her own website all about writing more love letters. This site also focuses on you being able to sign up to send letters to those in need of some love -- and yes, these are all strangers. Writing your first letter to a stranger is the most overwhelming but empowering moment. You know absolutely nothing about what will happen once you mail the envelope or once you hide the letter around campus or around the city; you don't know if the person will open the letter and read it, be moved, crumble it up, hate you. It's such a rush of feelings. And just think, all of these emotions someone might experience come from the words you put on paper.
Thank you, Mr. McCluskey and Hannah Brencher, for teaching me the essential art form that letters provides to this world. Thank you for teaching me happiness by writing love letters to strangers, by writing letters to those who have helped make my life better. Expect a letter in the mail from me sometime this week!