These days, it seems, so many of us are walking around with burdened souls and heavy hearts. The past year of diminished human contact – particularly when we have needed it most, thanks to massive amounts of uncertainty and strife – has taken a toll on our mental health. For some, that weight can be difficult to carry, and brings with it feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
A Dryden, Mich., man is hoping his latest project can help lighten that load, at least a little.
Travis White started a campaign called Words Unsaid, to which people can send anonymous letters and spell out whatever they want to say. Perhaps they are carrying a difficult secret or have something to tell someone but have not yet found the nerve to do so. Maybe they’re so excited about something, they want to shout it from the rooftops, but aren’t quite ready to make the information public. Words Unsaid offers up the opportunity to get those words off your soul and onto paper, and you can send them off knowing that someone in a small Michigan village will read them.
White, 26, met his wife Andrea, an Imlay City, Mich., native, while attending Central Michigan University, and the couple recently bought a house in Dryden. When White was a freshman at CMU, he created an organization called “A Letter for Better,” with a goal of taking addresses from random strangers online and writing them a letter in an effort to create a more positive world and bring back the “lost art” of letter writing.
“Nowadays, the mail system is primarily used for junk mail, bills and packages and I wanted to give people that warm feeling of receiving and reading a handwritten letter that was just for them,” said White. “We always wrote our letters with the thought in the back of our minds that this one letter could push that person through the day, so they'll see tomorrow; and we never wanted to lose sight of that.”
The organization slowly grew and ended up gaining national attention when they were showcased on National Public Radio and then various news outlets across the country.
“Eventually, when I was gearing up for graduation, I stepped down from my leadership position to allow for other students to take over and go through a natural transition from year-to-year,” said White. “I'm happy to say that eight years later, the organization is still alive and kicking at CMU and they're doing awesome things up there!”
White’s passion for letters and positive mental health has evolved into Words Unsaid, which launched in early December. The goal is to allow people to pour their hearts anonymously onto paper and release whatever is burdening their souls, with the knowledge that at least one person out there will hear what they have to say.
“These letters can be literally anything: Love letters that you want to send to someone but are too afraid to, confessions, letters you'd never send (but actually send), accomplishments that you want to talk about, etc.,” said White. “The best part is that you do not need to give your identity. You don't have to include a name or a return address. What you reveal about yourself is completely up to you. Just two things: Every letter will be read, and if you write to me, you are consenting to your letter possibly being public (with all your information and identifying factors redacted). I'm only leaving this open if I want to scan them and make a book someday.”
Letters may be sent to Words Unsaid, PO Box 311, Dryden, MI 48428.
White said he is hoping the letters give people the emotional relief that comes from talking to someone about whatever they have on their mind.
“I think that writing letters is a very productive way of sorting out feelings and expressing the way that we’re feeling,” he said. “The world needs that now more than ever. Sometimes we just need reassurance that somebody is listening, even if that reassurance comes from writing a letter and sending it off to a random stranger.”
Since launching Words Unsaid, White has received a handful of letters, including one that came all the way from Germany. He started a website, www.wordsunsaidletters.com, where some of the letters have been scanned for others to read as well, in hopes that the words might help people feel like they are not alone in what they are experiencing.
“It feels good,” said White. “Some of the letters that I’ve received have already been pretty heavy, so I know that my project is at least making a small impact. These are real feelings from real people, and those feelings are weighing people down. I’m glad that they have a little something to be able to take that tension away from them. I feel the pain in all these letters I read.”
*Photo courtesy Travis White/Words Unsaid