Valentine's day isn't a favorite holiday for all people- especially not people who aren't in a romantic relationship. But what about a bundle of unexpected letters, written by strangers from a little town far away? Well a town in West Virginia is about to receive about 700 love letters. These letters express well wishes- even for those who claim to be left out of Valentine's Day.
Last year, folks in Thomas, W.Va. hand-wrote hundreds of letters to send to another small town that was chosen, basically, at random. The idea was to remind people that someone out there, someone they've never even met, really, and genuinely cares.
Gail Snyder lives in Madrid, New Mexico. Last winter, she was one of the people who received one of these love letters. "It was this total surprise, and everyone had their own private experience of going to their mailbox and finding this mysterious thing in the mailbox. It was addressed to fellow human being," Gail recalled.
These whimsical letters were part of a community art project, organized by Art Spring. Audrey Stephenson is an AmeriCorps volunteer who helped organize the project. "Well I thought it was an amazing idea right off the bat. Just what a sweet thing to do," she said.
Seth Pitt first had the idea. He's an artist who co-owns and operates The White Room Art Gallery in Thomas.
"I used to write letters to strangers. And I thought it would even be a little more impactful if everyone was sitting around in a room together, all trying to send out good will to their fellow humans on this earth. I do think that a large part of this project, its goal is to not feel so isolated from one another," said Seth.
People who live in the towns of Thomas and Madrid learned that they do share some similarities- they're both former coal mining towns, which have had to find other ways to survive when the coal mines in their towns shut down.
One town in the desert and another in the Appalachian mountains, somehow connected by these little pages of art.
"It gave us all hope I think. You know, hope that we aren't just these isolated communities struggling," said Gail Snyder.
So last year, the residents in Madrid were inspired to start their own project, and they sent similar letters to a small town in Arizona. So far, Gail says, they haven't heard back.
But some of the people in Madrid have actually formed pen-pal relationships with people in Thomas.
"One of the coolest stories was one of the kids around here she sent a little piece of her art. And it landed in the mailbox of an artist who lived out there. And the lady replied to her and kind of critiqued her art and told her what she liked about it. And that prompted the girl who lived here to send her another piece of art. And they're still exchanging letters to this day," said Seth.
The last few weeks, Seth, Audrey, and other folks in Thomas have begun another letter writing campaign- this time for residents of a small town in West Virginia. "I don't know if I want to tell you the town because then they'll all know that they're coming. And we'd kind of like it to be a surprise," said Seth.
So for now, we'll leave it a mystery for you to ponder. But I will say this, all you cynics out there, watch out. Because a stranger could disarm all of your objections to Valentine's Day with a singular, unexpected love letter, reminding you that someone out there, someone who doesn't even know your name, sends their love.
We'll find out where Thomas sends their letters this year in a few weeks, when they receive their letters. interviews the recipients. If you want to try this in your town, Audrey Stephenson and the people in Thomas strongly recommend that you first contact your local postmaster for assistance. Mass mailings can be very complicated, especially those that are being sent to rural route box holders.