The Healing Potential of Handwritten Letters

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In the far periphery of presidential politics and the surging pandemic, there’s a small, simple story that caught my attention from New York City. On a street corner in Brooklyn, a teacher named Brandon Woolf set up a folding chair and a typewriter alongside a mailbox and a handwritten sign offering “Free Letters for Friends Feeling Blue.”

It’s a familiar sight in some cities. His instrument is analog. And there’s nothing particularly new about consolation letters. But as isolation stretches on, the sheer tactility of letter-writing takes on heightened potential for healing for passers-by who pulled up. For hours on end, Woolf would type for anyone who asked, with masks, hand sanitizer, and distance in place. “Whatever type of experience you would like to have, I’m happy to provide letters, envelopes, stamps,” he told reporter Anna Quinn. “What’s a better experience than getting a piece of mail…from somebody you didn’t expect to hear from?”

Hard to disagree. With credit to Woolf and anyone who’s done it before, here’s an idea (what would Recharge be if not an amplifier?): For any reader who’d like a handwritten letter from our international Recharge desk, request away at recharge@motherjones.com. It won’t be typed, won’t be lengthy, and won’t be poetic; it’ll just be a postcard with a short message, and it won’t mention the 45th president of the United States.

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FACT:

Mother Jones was founded as a nonprofit in 1976 because we knew corporations and the wealthy wouldn't fund the type of hard-hitting journalism we set out to do.

Today, reader support makes up about two-thirds of our budget, allows us to dig deep on stories that matter, and lets us keep our reporting free for everyone. If you value what you get from Mother Jones, please join us with a tax-deductible donation today so we can keep on doing the type of journalism 2020 demands.

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