With so many of us staying home and avoiding social gatherings, it can be easy to feel disconnected from, not just the people we love, but the strangers we smile at in the bookstore or on the city bus. Early on in the pandemic, I found myself wondering how to lean into this sense of connection—even when hugs and movie nights are off limits. And I turned to the letter.
There is something profoundly beautiful about receiving a letter with scratched out words and smeared pen ink. There’s no backspace on your stationery. Picking a stamp that fits the recipient. Saving your best handwriting for the outside of the envelope. Writing letters means a lot to me, so when Smile Project Ambassador, Allison Hritz, told us about an opportunity to spread joy through letters (and without leaving your home), we knew we had to share it with the wider Smile Project community.
Liz: Tell me about what you’re doing to spread kindness through card writing this holiday season?
Allison: Holiday cards mean so much more than commercialized paper with a stamp. They are physical treasures that carry thought and love, both to the sender and to the receiver. Two organizations I partner with are asking for these little gifts of love this season: More Love Letters and Voices of Hope.
More Love Letters conducts an annual 12 days of letter writing in December. The organization selects 12 people in the nation who are in desperate need of love and encouragement around the holidays. They collect letter bundles from all over the country to send to these individuals.
Voices of Hope is closer to home. The organization is based in Pittsburgh and is a shelter for sexual assault survivors. They are collecting cards to give to individuals in the shelter during the holiday season. Both of these organizations desire the letters to be signed anonymously.
Liz: Why letters?
Allison: Letters have always been a part of how I love others. Writing a letter goes beyond texting or calls. It is a form of love that gives somebody something physical that lets them know you are thinking of them. It takes time, thought, and care. Every time I send someone a letter, this is the common response: “I received your letter just when I needed it. It means so much to know someone was thinking about me.”
"Letters have always been a part of how I love others."
Liz: What does service mean to you?
Allison: Service means putting others before yourself in all things. It is not just a one time deal. It is constantly listening, constantly giving, constantly helping, and constantly humbling yourself before others.
Liz note: I first met Allison while working as a counselor at a leadership camp in 2016. Her passion for service was evident upon first conversation. In addition to being a senior Secondary Social Studies education major at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, PA, she also is the former president of Campus Cursive and a member of the Title IX Committee at her college.
Liz: How can people get involved?
Allison: As mentioned, the two organizations I am writing cards for this year are: More Love Letters with their annual 12 days of letter writing and the Voices of Hope in Pittsburgh, an organization for sexual assault survivors.
Both of these organizations desire anonymous letters. They can be hard to write sometimes, but here are some ideas to get you started:
The holidays can be challenging - know that you have allies who are on your side.
With you in solidarity as you heal.
I know that you are strong, brave, and independent.
I hope this time of rebirth can remind you of your own perseverance.
May this card remind you of the light you bring to this world.
Though I am a stranger to you, I am thinking about you this holiday season, and wishing you healing and joy.
Cards are vital to letting know people who are struggling that others are with them.
To write with More Love Letters, visit this website.
To write with Voices of Hope, please send letters to: 5450 North Broad Street, South Park, PA 15129
Liz: How can people become more involved?
Allison: You can follow More Love Letters on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Check out the More Love Letters website here or the Voices of Hope website here. You can also follow Voices of Hope on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. They have tons of opportunities to volunteer or partner—definitely good ways to invest time.
Liz: Anything else you'd like to add?
Allison: Consider sending letters to people in your own life, even if it is just a one time deal. I have kept every letter my penpals have sent me this year, so I can tell you first hand that letters are treasures. Letters are a great way to spread love, something we could all use in this world.
Liz: Do you have a favorite quote you'd like to leave us with?
"Love seems to be something that keeps filling up within us. The more we give away, the more we have to give."
— Mr. Rogers
“Love never fails.”
—1 Corinthians 13:8