Why I Write Letters of Encouragement to Strangers

This author encourages others through monthly letters of encouragement. Read how she found a passion for sharing snail mail with strangers.
I’ve always had a thing for snail mail.

As a kid I would race to the mailbox hoping to see a letter or package with my name on it. Rarely was there something for me inside, but whenever I received something I could be found with the biggest grin on my face. It didn’t have to include money or a gift — it could have been a short note from a friend or a card from my grandma — I just loved knowing that someone had been thinking of me and sent a surprise.

For some, the excitement of checking their mailbox fades as they grow older and they realize that the majority of what they’ll find is a bunch of useless junk, ads, and the worst: bills. I’m no exception.

One day in early 2013, I set out to write encouraging cards to all of my friends. I did it on a lark because I wanted to show them love and knew that a text message just wasn’t going to cut it.

As I handwrote 13 cards, I thought about giving them to each friend the next time I saw them in person, but then realized I wasn’t going to see some of them for quite a while. I decided I would mail them instead, letting it be a fun surprise. Having always been an old soul, I bought myself a small, physical address book. I began collecting their addresses and sending the cards out.

Every one of my friends expressed how much it meant to them, and since I’d enjoyed writing them so much, I decided this could be a monthly thing. My goal was to send each of them a letter of encouragement every month that they could look forward to. I became a regular at my local post office (and was typically the youngest one in line).

Later that same year, I posted a picture of stationery cards with a pen on my Instagram account. The caption: “I’ll be sending out letters this week. If anyone wants to receive mail for fun, message me your address. Because who doesn’t love snail mail and uplifting words?”

I had no idea this was the first invitation that would eventually reach thousands of random people across the United States. At the time, I wasn’t thinking about starting a movement. I was following my heart, doing something that gave me joy and gave back. But with that simple post, a project called Monthly Letters of Encouragement was born.

Do remember the last time you got a piece of mail that wasn't a bill? Maybe it was a card for your birthday from grandma or letter from your childhood best friend. Perhaps it was from your spouse serving overseas. In an age full of technology, there's still nothing like a handwritten, heartfelt letter. Do you recall the way it made you feel as you opened it? People treasure the personal touch that can only be expressed through snail mail. Even though I'm an avid email user, it could never replace the excitement and thrill of receiving and opening a personal letter. Who could you send some encouragement to over the weekend? Sharing a few of these lovely shots of their very own #monthlylettersofencouragement 💌

A post shared by Manda Carpenter (@mandacarpenter) on

Combining three of my favorite things — writing, snail mail, and encouragement — Monthly Letters of Encouragement became a project I poured my time, energy, and resources into.

Because I was an elementary school teacher at the time, I still had to work. This was a personal project I worked on in the wee hours of mornings, late evenings, and weekends. I collected names and addresses of people who wanted to receive a little hope in their mailbox each month. As word spread and people shared pictures of their arriving #MonthlyLettersOfEncouragement, the number of people on my recipients list quickly grew to hundreds.

Strangers from all over caught wind of these letters and loved it so much that they wanted to sponsor it. I accepted donations to purchase more stationery and stamps, but in December of 2015, it was no longer feasible for me to handwrite and mail all of the letters myself.

One month later, in January 2016, I launched a team of trusted writers who took on a handful of recipients and we kept #MonthlyLettersOfEncouragement going strong.

Somewhere along the way I heard, “Anything that gets your heart beating faster is probably worth doing.” And this made my heart beat faster. It didn’t matter that I wasn’t profiting from it. It didn’t matter that it was a makeshift project and I was totally winging it, learning on the fly. I think that’s what made it so special.

I believe there are a lot of things worth doing that will never result in a fat paycheck. The bottom line is that if you can’t imagine not doing something, it’s a passion — one that God put inside of you for some reason, whether you know why or not. It doesn’t have to be a moneymaker, and it doesn’t have to make sense to everyone else.

There have been a number of people who think what I did with Monthly Letters of Encouragement was silly. There have been plenty of naysayers. I decided to tune out those voices, however, and listen instead to the people whose lives were being positively impacted because of a monthly letter of encouragement from a stranger.

Too often we aspire to do something unique, inspiring, and big, but we don’t know where to begin. If I learned anything at all from this project, I learned that the first step is to figure out what our passions are and do something with them. Start small. Start in the wee hours before work each morning. Start despite what anyone else thinks. Just start. Because the world needs your passion.

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