Before the invention of text messaging, which makes it very easy to send a note to a friend, and before there were phones in every home that could instantly connect you with a loved one, there were letters. Sure, you might have to wait a few days or weeks for the postman to deliver it, but the special feeling it contained made it worth the wait.
Although a letter does not offer instant gratification, handwritten correspondence was always highly anticipated and relished. His stationery, envelope and stamp were kept as keepsakes to read and reread, and treasure.
Faced with concern about the coronavirus pandemic and all the stress it has caused New Yorkers, a Brooklyn-based performance artist and English teacher, Brandon Woolf, came up with the idea of reviving the tradition of letter writing as a means to reach out and comfort each other.
Knowing that people have lost loved ones, jobs, and businesses, and given up on simple pleasures like hugs from a friend, Woolf began to ponder how to help people make meaningful connections.
His answer was to take a page from history.
“When interpersonal connection is risky, what other ways can we be together?” Woolf reflected in an interview with Park Slope’s Scribe. “What’s a better experience than getting an email in your mailbox from someone you didn’t expect to hear from?”
Using a vintage portable typewriter and sitting in a folding chair next to a mailbox, his sign reads, “Free Letters for Sad Friends.” Woolf spent several hours, a few days a week for four weeks, writing letters to his neighbors in Park Slope, Brooklyn.
The 37-year-old New York University professor dubbed his “post-dramatic” street performance “La Consola,” short for consolation.
“Let’s not regret our mailboxes
As recipients of civic futility, ”he wrote on Facebook. in a poem, as a manifesto project.
But make a new use of them.
Sit together (at a distance)
And comfort each other. And those we love.
Posting letters from the edge
I’ll be in the mailbox all month, with paper, stamps, and hand sanitizer, ready to serve as your medium, your console.
Together, if you wish, we can take a moment to write a comfort note, a blue-bordered missive for a friend who thinks they could use it. “
By the end of the project, Woolf had written more than 50 missives. While some letters were dictated, his favorites were the collaborative efforts between himself and the letter’s author, modifying the intentional prose while forming a unique emotional bond between the sender and the scribe.
That definitely gets our stamp of approval.
(CLOCK one of Brandon’s interpretations of lyrics in the video below, or visit their website)
If you don’t have time to send a letter, just share this inspiring story with your friends on social media …