Niagara Gazette

February 12, 2013

DeLuca: Share some handwritten words this Valentine's Day

Michele DeLuca
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Valentine's Day is Thursday and that's got me thinking about love letters.  I'm not the only one.  

I was watching a video from my favorite website, TED.com, and saw a young woman who has created a social media uproar by sending love letters to strangers. 

For those who don't know of TED.com, it's an extraordinary site online that features engaging, funny and down-to-earth lectures by people who are changing the planet. The presentation that caught my eye the other day was given by a 22-year-old college girl who described her response to being "sucker-punched" by depression when she moved to New York City after college. 

Hannah Brencher found the healing to her despair by remembering the comfort of her mother's handwritten letters to her while she was in college. 

"I posted a crazy comment on the Internet," she told the TED live audience in June. "If you asked me for a handwritten later I would write you one. Overnight my inbox morphed into an harbor of heartbreak," she said. "I would write them a love letter and give them a reason to wait by the mailbox."

She began to leave love letters for strangers around the city, and started a website to recruit others to help — moreloveletters.com. The response, she says, has been overwhelming and gratifying, powered she says, by "the mere fact that a 22-year-old girl who barely knows my coffee order could harness social media like never before to write and mail strangers letters when they need them most."

With Valentine's Day coming, I think I'm going to use my words to hand write some Valentines for people I love. Maybe thank my husband for the coffee he brings me every morning or tell my sons how proud I am of the men they've grown to be.

Perhaps I'll tell my mother how grateful I am to her for helping me to understand the family benefits found in continuing the tradition of making sauce on Sunday.

And as I pursue this little quest of mine to do battle against the seriousness that permeates my world, I am considering the power of words — mine and everyone else's — to create happiness or heartbreak, and our ability to change someone's day or maybe even their life by writing words that tell them how we feel. 

I'm starting to believe that it's important we put our love and affection into hand-written words that will live longer than a text or an email. If we write those words of appreciation on paper, whether in careful print or flowing cursive, we have given a little gift to someone which can be reread again and again, for as long as they wish, even when the power fails.

While I'm on the subject of gratitude, may I offer a little Valentine-ish appreciation to those of you reading these words. Every columnist worth reading must bare some portion of their soul, and I value the time you've spent reading my words. I believe that newspaper writers and readers are participating in a time-honored exchange which  — in its perfect form — fortifies each of us, as a tactile, enduring version of every exchange that occurs when someone gathers words they care about and offers them with heartfelt sincerity for someone to read and ponder.   

My wish for you on this Valentine's Day is a loving exchange of handwritten words. 

Contact Features Editor Michele DeLuca at 282-2311, ext. 2263.