Tag Archives: That Girl

The Girl Who Saved The Postal Service

packaged letters bundle

via weheartit.com

The moment she heard the news, she ran outside and got into her car.

She drove the thirteen miles to the nearest Target, slammed the driver’s side door shut, and raced inside.

Grabbed a red plastic basket — she was going to need it.

It wasn’t until she reached the stationery section that she broke down and cried.

A young mother with an antsy toddler in the front seat of plastic carts slowed her steps to raise an eyebrow at the girl on hands and knees, scooping packs of blank note cards into her basket.

She filled it to the brim with all the supplies she needed to fight the system: packs of pens, blank invitations and thank-you notes, note cards and envelopes.

The cashier at the checkout counter, a sweet old man with the smile the size of Kentucky, scanned each item and placed them gingerly in the bag.

“You heard what they’re saying on the television, right?” he said. “About the postal service?”

“I heard.” She bounced up and down on her heels, rubbed her hands over her biceps. “Uh huh. I heard.”

“It’s not gonna shut down right now,” he assured her. “Been around since the country’s founding and it’s not going anywhere.”

She ignored this.

“I figure if I send at least fifty letters to fifty people, and those fifty people send fifty letters, that’s already thousands of letters in the mail. That’s already thousands of people having a conversation.”

“You kids these days.” He laughed and handed her a receipt. “You think you can just do something small and it’s going to matter to the higher-ups. The government’s a big mess. A big self-centered mess.”

“I don’t think so,” she said. “All those government people, they all have family too.”

He handed her one of the bags.

“So they want to keep in touch with their families. They want to get a handwritten note still on their birthdays.”

“Honey,” he said. “My family stopped sending me birthday cards almost 50 years ago.”

“What’s your name?”

She reached into her bag and pulled out a sticky note pad and a pen.

He tapped his nametag. Carl. New Team Member etched underneath.

“Well, Carl New Team Member, I’m going to add you to my list.”

“Don’t do me any favors,” he said.

“I’m not. I think you know 50 people who want a letter. I think you can save the postal service.”

And then she exited the store, hauling her bags to the car.

It was raining outside when she got back to her house. She darted to the front door, juggled her house keys and slipped inside.

Then she sat down, wrote straight through the night.

When her wrist ached and her eyes closed, she thought about the generation after her. The generation dedicated to text messages deleted every two years when they traded in for new phones. She thought about her own pile of letters, crumpled and stained at the bottom of her desk drawer.

She could smell the parchment, feel the pages beneath her fingertips. She didn’t know what would happen if she didn’t have that.

She waited until the sun came up before she walked the mile to her driveway and stuffed the mailbox full. She raised the red flag on the side and waited, dazed, worried the mailman wouldn’t come. 

Hannah Brencher believes the world needs more love letters. Don’t let this beautiful project die because Congress won’t bail out the postal service. Write a handwritten note today.

Nobody knows what's in the notebook, but everyone imagines something.

via weheartit.com

She sits in the back corner of the coffee shop, the one tucked in the remote corner of the city away from the hustle and bustle of Corporate America. She likes it that way, hidden in a booth away from the front counter.

She always orders the same thing: a small tea with one packet of sugar added–no more–and she nurses it until the tea’s been cold for hours. She doesn’t move, just opens up a worn leather notebook and begins to write.

Every once in a while, she glances up to make sure she hasn’t missed anything important–a tornado or an earthquake–before settling back down into the solitude.

Nobody knows what’s in the notebook, but everyone imagines something. Stories of pretty girls seduced by boys on motorcycles. Boys their fathers don’t approve of. Stories of kids running through fields and turning different shades of brown in the summer heat, stretching moments into memories, tomorrows into yesterdays, until their mothers call them inside for the evening. Stories of a life she never lived, but one she might’ve imagined.

They wonder what happens when she goes home at night, her fingers cramped from a long day of scribbling, her eyes burning from squinting to read her own words beneath dim lighting. They wonder if she plugs in to the rest of the world then to contribute what she knows, what she feels, what she sees. She doesn’t.

They would never imagine what she does. Their minds stop short of reality.

First she gets down on hands and knees and yanks hard at a handle beneath her bed. She smooths the dust off the top of the leather suitcase in front of her and unclasps the metal bracket holding it shut tight. She runs over to the light switch and flicks it off, leaving herself alone in the dark.

Then, and only then, does she open it.

The inside’s lined with rows and rows of glass jars, each of them lighting up the room as fireflies swarm around inside. The jars are different shapes and sizes, some full of bugs and others barely housing a few scrawny ones. And they’re all labeled: Depression & Anxiety, Child Abuse, Alzheimer’s, Eating Disorders, Rheumatoid Arthritis, and so on.

She sifts through the pages in the dark, holding a jar up to the notebook like a flashlight, and finds what she’s looking for. And then she begins the stories, the names of the people in the coffee shop.

She finishes one page and unscrews a jar, clasping air in her hand and holding it like a secret over the open glass container. And then, as if by magic, the words and names turn into the fireflies.

She runs down another list, and another, and another, until she’s categorized all the pain she’s witnessed that day. Until it pools out of her and turns into something she can hoard in a suitcase beneath her bed. A light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

And then, once every single name is read and every story told, she pushes the leather suitcase back beneath her bed and rocks back on her heels. She bends down, hugs the cold wood floor, and begins to cry.

She cries for the ones she can’t help and the ones she doesn’t know. The ones who are too young and the ones who are too old. She cries because she doesn’t have the courage to speak to all the names under her bed, to address all the problems ailing these strangers. Because she’s letting cobwebs grow over the suitcase until one day–maybe–she’ll forget it’s there.

She cries to forget problems like mysterious creatures under her bed. And tomorrow, she’ll get up and do it again. Because that is all she knows anymore. All she can do to survive.

The magic's in the pause. That's where love begins.

I could scribble books full of conversations with my best friends. Long car rides on the highway to nowhere. Short walks from the candy aisle to the convenience store counter. A game of phone tag that goes on for days, holding me down to reality when my best friend leaves voicemails on my cell phone.

The kind of voicemails that leave me doubled over in pain at the crosswalk near the parking deck. The kind that have strangers turning around and staring because they can’t decide if I’m crying or laughing.

I used to hate talking on the phone. I’d walk in circles and twirl my hair between my fingers and ask myself if the other person on the other end felt like they were being tortured as much as I did.

Mostly, though, I thought I had nothing to say. And nothing to ask.

I missed out on this core mean of communication.

And then I went to college, got a boyfriend, and became That Girl. The one who holds the cell phone up to her ear so much that she can’t walk across campus without dialing at least one number.

I thought that I had to make up for the Lost Years when I loathed the phone.

That’s not what happened though. I just became The Girl With Something To Say.

I will tell you this right now, and I don’t want to ever, ever go back on it: nobody messes with the people I love.

I think it comes from being That Girl. One of my friends told me I embarrassed her on the phone. I was all big, swooping gestures and wide eyes and jaw-dropping. I was all personality.

It’s like somebody told me I could make faces and those movements would somehow translate into words and feed through the line to meet the person’s voice on the other end.

It’s the Italian in me.

I have never been great at loving. I don’t know how squeeze you until you can’t breathe and I sure as anything don’t have a knack for buying presents. But I sure can speak emphatically.

That’s love, for me: talking somebody’s ear off, hands up and down and everywhere, and then the pause. The pause when you let the other person in.

The magic’s in the pause—the listening.

That’s where love begins.

I can nod my head and wrinkle my nose and throw my arms up while I wait at the bus stop on a biting cold morning and even a stranger will be able to see the love manifest itself on that desolate sidewalk.

Because you can’t ignore love like that.

Everyone has that someone they can call and talk to for hours without it feeling like hours. The person whose voice starts up and flows like molasses out of their mouth and into our ears. Chattering like music. A soothing melody to calm our nerves, fill our hearts, ease our minds.

Their voice alone can heal us so that, by the end of the conversation, we forget we were mad.

That’s love: the ability to start out irrational and morph into forgetfulness until we’re knee deep and filled up and there’s no turning back.

You can’t erase the minutes on a phone conversation. It’s on the bill. It’s on the screen. It’s in your call logs.

You can’t erase love either. You can push it out of your way, but then it’s cropping back up, right in your face, fighting for your attention.

Always. Always and forever, it’s there.

Education might start in the classroom but it ends in the streets.

girl studying math homework

my sister doing math homework

Last spring, I got a 4.0. I’m not telling you this to brag or even to suggest to you that it’s possible. In fact, I’m telling you for the exact opposite reason.

For six semesters, it’s been the only number worth memorizing. And at the expense of my sanity and well being.

I was the girl who spent Sunday afternoons in a study corral at the library. Hunched over a statistics textbook, redoing problems until my answer matched the one in the back of the book.

Someone needed to stop that girl. Grab her pencil and textbook. Take them hostage.

Because a spoken word poem about a 9-year-old boy with cancer stopped me dead in my tracks Monday night. And I realized that education is not two numbers separated by a period on my official transcript.

Education is the realization that getting an A-minus is not the end of the world. Because I’m alive and my heart is pumping and there are hundreds of injustices in this world. And I work this hard for what? For a number that doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things.

Tears streamed down my face as I watched the video. Because the girl in the study corral, she missed out on the sun shining outside that day. She missed out on the hundreds of other people in this world with a story to tell and pain in their hearts and nobody put that girl’s actions into perspective.

I used to think education was a classroom full of kids, all in ruler-straight lines of desks, perfect posture and hands folded over hands in laps. Waiting with eager eyes and antsy feet tap-tap-tapping until the bell rang and then silence for 46 minutes.

Education equated to discipline. To perfectly written five-paragraph essays and math tests with no red lines scribbled on them. Grades with three digits.

I want you to know that it’s not true. I have two semesters left. One year. I’ve been in school since I was five years old. That’s 16 years of believing one silly little thing. And it’s not true.

That poem I watched was just the first of a whole stampede of experiences and ideas and insights that I’d sheltered myself from. I didn’t know how to save the world or raise my voice above the cacophony of sounds radiating from the universities around the world, filled with people who all wanted to help and be heard and volunteer and give back.

I didn’t realize that the only thing I had to do was start by breaking the mold. Start by being honest with myself and then spreading that honesty like peanut butter. Letting that gooeyness stick into all the crevices.

You’d be amazed how people can relate to honesty.

There’s a world outside the box, outside the doors of the library, outside the entrance to the university. Education might start in a classroom but it ends in the streets where kids are playing and getting caught up in violence and parents are sitting them down at the kitchen table to impart life lessons. And those parents go to bed praying they’re doing something right.

The first thing they can do? Tell their kids to break the mold. To find balance between school and everything else. To give themselves a break.