Writing a letter to a stranger can be a little intimidating. How do you even begin?
Step one is compassion and a desire to help. And the fact that you’re here means you’ve got that one covered.
The key to composing a thoughtful note is to keep it honest, simple, light and not too long. These letters have a purpose: to make someone feel seen and respected and to give them a little brightness in their day. No need to relate to them or validate what they’re going through, even.
In fact, best to steer clear of those inclinations.
Here’s a sample letter to get the tone, length and creative elements. Make it your own!
Dear RECIPIENT’S FIRST AND LAST NAME,
My name is <YOUR NAME> and I’m a volunteer with a group called Letters of Love.
Your address was shared with me by a friend of yours who thought you might appreciate a pick-me-up. I’m sorry to hear you’ve been going through a tough time. It must be incredibly difficult and I hope things get better soon.
I’m writing to you from Chicago, where I’ve lived for the past five years. My house is near Wrigley Field, and since the Cubs’ baseball season is over, it’s become much quieter. Which makes it easier to find parking (yay!) but sometimes I miss the energy in the neighborhood. Are you a sports fan? I’m originally from New York City, and haven’t given up rooting for the Mets.
Thank you for the opportunity to send you a letter. Sending you good vibes from Illinois, and sincerely hoping that things will improve soon.
<YOUR FIRST NAME>
- Most of the time, it’s better to avoid relating to a person’s experience. You might not know the full story, or their sensitivities around it. For instance, if you find out the person is in the hospital, don’t relate that time that you were in the hospital and what that experience was like for you. The circumstances or intensity might be different for them than they were for you, so better to relay sympathy without trying to relate.
- Write something light and neutral about yourself, giving the person a glimpse into who’s sending them a note. Pets are always a great source of letter-writing content. Be sensitive to a person’s situation. For instance, if you find out someone lost a parent, don’t talk about how excited you are for your family’s big holiday dinner coming up.