A Letter a Day

May 3rd, 2013 by Andrea Bennett

An Atlanta man takes pen to paper once a day to show even strangers that he cares.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Lonely? A little nostalgic for a time when people would take pen to paper and share their thoughts just with you?

One Atlanta man will do just that, on request. Last month, a piece in the Atlanta Journal Constitution relayed the story of Randy Osborne, a local man who started a project on January 1st in which he will write and mail an individual letter a day to anyone who asks.

As the story describes, Osborne writes each entry by hand on the front and back of a page with everything “from light chatter about the weather and social outings to his deeper observations on life,” and then mailed off, usually to a stranger.

So far, Osborne has already received letter requests from people in 31 states and 14 countries, and although his mission is decidedly low-tech, its near-viral spread is approaching a “captivating mash-up of Pioneer Days and the iPad Age.”

Osborne’s inspiration for the project comes from other novel ways he has shared the written word, including a hybrid mystery-literary scavenger hunt called “Narrative Urge” that consisted of his anonymously distributing envelopes in and outside of Atlanta that contained clues to the location of a website. The Letter a Day project, he says, is his attempt to reverse the anonymity of his former project. “There’s something about a human being having pressed pen or pencil to paper,” he said. “What’s being said almost doesn’t seem as important as the act of saying it this way.”

Much to his surprise, some of his letter recipients have reciprocated. And though his project seems to have begun as a commentary on communication, it seems to have touched on people’s real need for a personal connection.

The story inspired me to revisit a box of old letters, sent to me in college by my now-gone grandmother. Her letters meander a bit from news from her assisted living facility to stories about her childhood and yes, the weather – all in her slightly shaky but still graceful old-fashioned handwriting. Had she known how to email then, I’m not sure they would have meant the same.
I’m starting my own personal letter writing campaign; it likely won’t be a letter a day, but I’d like the people who mean a lot to me to know I cared enough to step away from the computer every once in a while and communicate the nuances that an email can’t achieve.

Does Osborne’s story make you think of all the people – even strangers – who could benefit from the extra effort of a little old-fashioned letter writing? Do you have a letter collection you treasure? Share your stories.