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‘Explosion of love letters’ hits Edmonton

One thousand love letters found their way to strangers from strangers in Edmonton this week.

That was Ashley Green’s goal for #Yeg1000Love, a Valentine’s Day-themed event put on through her ongoing Love Letters 2 Strangers project, which has grown immensely since she started it a year and a half ago.

“We spent probably just over four hours distributing letters within three days,” Green said Thursday. “It’s kind of like an explosion of love letters.”

A workshop at the Woodcroft library branch Feb. 9 saw about 60 people fold, write and decorate 1,034 notes of encouragement, support and jokes that were handed out Tuesday on the LRT, Wednesday at West Edmonton Mall, and Thursday along Jasper Avenue.

On Thursday morning, which was Valentine’s Day, about 500 letters were distributed. Most were accepted with a smile or thank you, while other people responded with a hug or high five. One man even bought coffee for the letter givers.

“It was cool to see people’s faces brighten up when you hand them to them,” said Michelle Lam, one of a dozen volunteers handing out notes at 6 a.m. Thursday. “It’s just really great to know that something so small can make just a little bit of a difference in someone’s day.”

And that’s what the project, which operates through workshops year-round, is about, said Green, noting she receives messages on Twitter, Facebook and through email from people who receive letters.

Michelle DeBay, who volunteered Thursday with her daughters, ages 13 and 8, couldn’t think of a better way to spend the morning.

“I kind of prepared my girls ahead of time that (they) may not get the best reactions,” she said. “I said if you make one person’s day, that’s enough.

“But I think we made a lot of people’s days today.”

What’s next?

  • Come March, Green plans on forming a committee in an effort to foster leadership and help those who would like to start a chapter of Love Letters 2 Strangers either in Edmonton, or Fort McMurray, Red Deer, Calgary, or beyond.
  • “I’ve learned that I can do it by myself, but I don’t want to limit this project ever because of my own time and talent restrictions,” she said.

From me to you, stranger

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

That Neale Donald Walsch quote makes me plan adventures and try new things. But I’ve learned stepping outside of one’s comfort zone can be simple – very simple.

I have participated in three of Ashley Green’s Love Letters 2 Strangers workshops since October. Making between 20 and 35 letters each time, I have handed them out in the days and weeks following each session.

And by handed them out, I mean left them in coffee shops, at restaurants and even in elevators.

I had never actually worked up the courage to directly give one of these love letters to a stranger.

Until Thursday.

On Valentine’s Day, I gave out between 40 and 50 to strangers on Jasper Avenue, as part of Ashley’s #Yeg1000Love event.

Some probably thought they were silly, while others may have needed a pick me up, laugh or compliment to steer their day – or life – in the right direction. But almost everyone seemed surprised at the gesture, and expressed genuine thanks.

Like many others who participate, I write what I’d like to hear. So it is my hope that if you have found or received one of these letters, or do in the future, it’s something you can appreciate too.

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