Hannah Brencher writes love letters to strangers.
“I wasn’t trying to revive the lost art of snail mail,” said Brencher, who founded the organization The World Needs More Love Letters. “I just wanted to talk about how a lot of times it feels like we’re missing one another.”
Students gathered in Claudia Cohen Hall on Wednesday night to hear Brencher discuss her organization and the inspiration behind the movement she started in 2011. Penn’s Cognitive Wellness club hosted the event, called "Love Letters to Penn," and attendees wrote their own love letters at the end of the event.
Brencher formed a habit of writing love letters to strangers when she lived in New York.
On the front of the letters she would write, “If you find this letter, it’s for you.” Then, Brencher would place the letters in public places where strangers might find them, in hopes that those who discovered the letters would “find themselves loved or known.”
The letters led to Brencher starting a blog, on which she offered to write letters to strangers, no questions asked. What she didn’t expect was hundreds of responses — the post had gone viral. Brencher’s audition for a TED Talk in 2012 gained popularity as well.
In 2015 she authored a memoir, "If You Find This Letter," and her movement has since developed into a global non-profit that “uses the power behind social media to write and mail letters to strangers all over the world,” according to Brencher’s website.
Brencher, who frequently speaks to college students, noted the importance of the reaching out to strangers especially on college campuses.
“Sometimes on college campuses that seem really big and massive and sprawling, it’s really easy to forget one another, or not see one another, or look past one another,” Brencher said. “We miss opportunities to serve one another if we aren’t present.”
College junior and event organizer Emily Marucci agreed.
“It’s really easy for us to get wrapped up in our GPA and our grades and our job,” Marucci said. “But learning how to love yourself and love others around you is really important too.”
College junior Madison Hickey noted that Brencher’s story illustrates “how easy it is to help someone, and how far such small acts can go.”
After the event, students had the opportunity to write their own letters to strangers, which will be placed around Penn’s campus.
Brencher described the broader significance of her movement.
“What I’ve found throughout my work is that it’s not about love letters,” she said. “It’s all the little things that we do in our daily lives that are small, and they stack, and they need to be done on repeat for us to show up for other people and love them well.”