Letters of Love – Our Experience

We were a team of 5 of us working behind the scenes on the Letters of Love campaign and amidst these trying times facilitating this project uplifted us in deep and beautiful ways. Here is a reflection from one of our team mates, Andrea.

As the country was headed into a lockdown, uncertainty, fear and anxiety loomed large and we needed help and support from each other more than ever. But how do you be there for each other when social isolation is mandatory? Writing digital letters of love seemed like a really great way.

Being an introvert myself, having a lot of time to myself honestly seemed amazing. But a few weeks into the lockdown, I started to find myself falling into a negative spiral. The isolation plus the problems of life started to get to me. Reading some of the requests that came in at that time, I could see that I could relate to so many people, it made me feel like I wasn’t alone, and through the letters, I hope that I could make them feel like they weren’t alone too.

I didn’t expect the effects of the initiative to be so tangible in my life. In writing letters of love, hope, kindness and understanding, I found that I myself began to feel more encouraged. As I was writing to someone else, I myself was hearing my own words, and it lifted my spirits. In hearing the responses of other letter writers in the community, I found that others too found that the practice of writing letters of hope helped them see the lighter side of  life through their own struggles. I found too that my speech became a little more kinder.

Writing the letters filled with support and positivity was uplifting as well as interacting with a group of enthusiastic writers was refreshing especially in contrast to daily life where people don’t always prioritize patience and kindness in conversation. It was amazing to see so many writers send in letters week after week and give their time and efforts selflessly.

Through writing the letters to strangers, there is certain care and connection you feel towards the recipient. An unexpected bond with someone you’ve never met. Hearing the impact that your words have had on others, that it made their day or brought tears to their eyes, it’s such a lovely way to interact. It’s lovely to live in a world where we support each other, without any agenda other than to make someone smile that day or to remind them of their own strength.

Letters of Love in the time of Corona

Penning support during these unprecedented times.

It’s been weeks since we first heard of the COVID-19 outbreak. Unlike pandemics or disasters we’ve heard of before, the viral outbreak of 2020 affected everyone in one way or the other. 

Letters Earthlings was a small initiative with the intention of connecting strangers across the world through good old letters. In response to the pandemic and its effects, we felt the need to reignite the same project to inspire human connection and kindness, this time through letters written digitally.

Hence the project ‘Letters of Love in the time of Corona’. We started the project in the first month of April. This was just about the same time when most countries in the world put in place stringent social distancing measures and lockdowns. The idea was to enable anyone to request a letter for someone they know, anywhere in the world to help them cope through the current crisis. The letter would be written by a letter writer from anywhere in the world who would pick up the request. The letter would then be emailed to the person it was requested to.

We established forms that enabled strangers to request letters for someone who was having it tough. This could be someone who had lost their job, was very anxious about the uncertain future, was finding it difficult to cope with social isolation – anyone really who they thought could do with some extra love and support. The form when filled would detail the person’s name, their e-mail ID and a brief of the message to be delivered. A letter request could also could also be made for the person requesting the letter themselves.

We also opened up the doors to letter writers, people who would chose to volunteer to write the heartfelt bundles of letters after the requests were received.

So far, over 825 letters have been emailed to strangers across the globe.

Over the six weeks, we had 364 letter writers sign up from 22 different countries. As for the requests, we received 285 letter requests from 18 different countries. The response has been overwhelming and it’s been a journey of both healing and relief experienced by both the writers and recipients. We’ve received messages that tell of happiness and heartfelt appreciation from those who have received the letters. Despite the distance, good old letters continue to inspire and spread love and hope.

The pandemic may still not be over, but as the world slowly recovers, we’ve come to realize we all have the power to deeply empathize. Digital letters of love continue to inspire the human connection, to spread kindness and love even to strangers we may never meet.

We were a team of 5 of us working behind the scenes on this campaign and amidst these trying times, facilitating this project uplifted us in deep and beautiful ways. Read more from one of our team mates here.

 

Kindness in Culture – Ubuntu

There is an increasing amount of research revealing that human beings are inherently kind and compassionate. And there are many examples of cultures and communities that live in alignment with these values. Arunesh our volunteer blogger is exploring this theme to uncover inspiring stories of ‘kindness in culture’, from around the world.

So let me begin with a little story. An anthropologist was on a tour to Africa studying the habits and culture of a remote tribe. On the day when he was about to leave, he decided to put together a basket filled with delicious eatables. Placing the same under a tree, he gathered the children from a nearby village. Instructing them further, the kids were told to run towards the tree to fetch the basket. The one reaching first would have a chance to savor those delicacies.

To the man’s surprise, the little kids ran together, hand-in-hand. Eventually, everyone was crowned the winner since all of them finished at the same time. Therefore, each little soul beneath the tree could enjoy the fruits in unison. Mind-boggled by this instance which unfolded before his own eyes, he questioned a young girl about the same. With a smile she replied, “How can one of us be happy when the others are sad?”

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This ideology forms the core or say, an underlying feature of ‘Ubuntu’ which basically means ‘I am because we are.’ Isn’t it amazing? A renowned South African activist, Mr. Desmond Tutu, has explained the philosophy very well. He says, “Africans have a thing called ubuntu. We believe that a person is a person through other persons. That my humanity is caught up, bound up, inextricably, with yours. When I dehumanize you, I dehumanize myself. The solitary human being is a contradiction in terms. Therefore you seek to work for the common good because your humanity comes into its own in community, in belonging.”

Not much remains to be said after this crisp definition of what Ubuntu is all about. Sighting a simple example, why am I writing this? It’s because you (are) and many other people would be reading it. The fundamental act of writing has the power to bridge the gap between an author and a reader. They are intricately linked through a piece of text, however the content maybe. Indeed, this is a broad consideration and varies from true essence of Ubuntu. But the concept of kindling that sense of oneness is a mutual feature between the two. We at The Goodwill Tribe believe the same when it comes to embracing human connections. Kindness and compassion is all you need to make a difference in the lives of people. For the South Africans, it’s a way of life!

Multiple forms of Wealth

Here we are 3 and a half years since The Goodwill Tribe first started, and looking back, we had no idea we’d get this far. All we wanted to do was find a way to pump more love, kindness and connection into our world. We were often told that in order to stick around or scale we’d need financial resources. To keep it simple, we said to ourselves that we’d ask ourselves that question the day the need arises. Perhaps it has now, but, we’d like to share with you what we’ve discovered through our journey and the multiple powerful forms of wealth we have come to acknowledge.

The wealth of shared dreams
Everything started when Sonia reached out to Chandni with her big and beautiful dreams to spread kindness. Chandni sat back and listened amazed at how they were exactly aligned with their dreams. In the years to follow, their friends in other cities who also shared the dream started to align with us, bringing strength and scale to our cause. And then the community started to grow. We are now a team of about 35 people held together by the undeniable force of our shared dream.

The wealth of inspiration
Everything begins with a spark of inspiration. It’s never easy to pin point the exact moment, but it happened somewhere, because of someone, through something. It created that feeling that we all know so well, when the spirit is uplifted, the heart sings and the mind believes it can achieve anything. We found inspiration in the humble work of other people like Nipun Mehta, founder of Service Space, Sheetal Sanghvi, founder of The Urban Ashram, Hannah Brecher, the heart behind More Love Letters, Nivendra Uduman who threw a love letter writing party when we were in University and then went on to start Letter Earthlings, and so many other people. We’ve been inspired by all the content on kindness that is shared through the internet. We’ve been inspired by the million little moments of love and compassion we’ve witnessed in the world around us. And the list goes on, we feel so abundant in inspiration.

The wealth of time
Everyone on the team spends between 8 to 16 hours a month working on The Goodwill Tribe projects. They’ve chosen to be generous with their time and contribute it towards working for humanity. Everyone who comes for an event is taking time out of their lives because they believe in a better world. They’re taking time to deepen their inherent goodness, tap into their kindness capacity and connect with strangers. We appreciate the wealth of time that has been contributed to shape and sustain The Goodwill Tribe.

The wealth of ideas
We believe that reality is what you make it. And we’ve been exposed to so many amazing ideas of what our world could be. Our events have all been designed around rich ideas that have evolved in people’s minds. Each person in the tribe has astounded us with their creative ideas to inspire kindness and connection.

The wealth of community
At a Letter Earthlings event, we invite people to bring stationary from their own homes and they do! Sometimes we need help prepping for an event and reach out to the community. People respond, they turn up to help out. When we’re hosting an event outdoors it’s not surprising for people to come armed with a flask of tea and biscuits to share. We’re truly experiencing the power of community. This is what our world once was like, with people living together in close knit groups, where everyone took care of each other. We are aware of the wealth of community and are glad to watch it show its face, it is always guiding and supporting us with our intention and in our actions.

The wealth of technology
Our work has been possible only through the gift of technology. It is through the power of the Internet that members from 12 different Goodwill Tribe chapters around the world have come together on this shared mission. Many chapters have come into being because of a chance stumbling upon our website. Most of us have not met each other, yet are strongly connected through technology that brings us closer. We’ve got a Whatsapp group that is our channel for daily updates and stories. We use Skype to run our operations and on-board new chapters in any part of the world. We gather together on a monthly call on Zoom (a video conferencing software) to share stories, learning’s and inspiration. We bank on our Website and our Facebook page to get the word out about all of our events. Our blog is our voice to the world, it’s where we share the amazing moments we’ve experienced through our experiments with kindness and regular Skype calls and email ensures we are running operationally smooth. Beyond this, we believe that all these inspiring digital instances of kindness and compassion trigger many subtle and invisible ripples of goodness in the world!

It is only recently that we became aware of the multiple forms of wealth we have been tapping into all along, but it’s the thread that holds this blanket of compassion together. It’s a powerful thought to know that all of us are abundant in so many ways beyond financial resources. We feel full with all that we do every day.

We ask you to take a look at your life, and all the little pieces that make it what it is. Appreciate the wealth, you are abundant 🙂

 

Must watch movies about compassion!

As the weekend is right around the corner, here are 5 movies about compassion you must watch!

1. The Good Lie : This is a 2014 American-Indian drama film by Margaret Nagle. The film follows the story of six siblings from Sudan who are trying to flee during the Second Sudanese Civil War. A kind employment counselor and the sacrifices of the siblings to keep each other safe, makes the movie a must watch! With three cast members who had actually witnessed the War, the film is an amazing journey about love, family and compassion.

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2. Schindler’s List : One of the most famous movies about Nazi Germany, Schindler’s List is a 1993 movie following the life of Oskar Schindler, known to have saved the lives of many Jews. Beginning as an unmoved member of the Nazi Party, Schindler is deeply moved when he sees the massacre following the emptying of a ghetto. He then turns into a protector of the Jews and tries to save more and more people till his last breath. What’s better? It’s a true story.

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3. Le Havre : Le Havre is a 2011 French movie that focuses on the life of an old couple – Marcel Marx and Arletty and their community. Life changes as a small illegal immigrant arrives in their lives. Based in the port city of Le Havre, the film shows the extent to which a society goes to be kind and compassionate towards an innocent child. Filled with funny remarks and great acting, Le Havre is a must watch!

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4. Pay It Forward : The life of 12-year-old Trevor McKinney changes completely when he receives a class assignment to do something that would change the world for the better. Inspired by the power of kindness, Pay It Forward is a 2000 American school drama that revolves around Trevor’s school project ‘Pay it Forward’. The project is designed to spark many moments of kindness by paying favours received forward to three others.It is a very emotional movie, so grab some tissues for sure! But it’s also something close to the heart of The Goodwill Tribe.

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5. Freedom Writers : Set in 1992, the movie is an adaptation of the life of a school teacher struggling to teach kids coming from racially different and violent family backgrounds. Released in 2007, the film follows Erin Gruwell and her class as they change from frustrated violent enemies to empathic and helpful friends. Guided by Gruwell, they identify their similarities and learn to be there for each other. Gruwell uses different techniques to bring together the divided group and what happens in the end is no less than a miracle. It is a definite watch for everyone!

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