This is a two-part interview. Stay tuned for the next installment, all about Hannah herself!
Hannah Brencher is an incredible young woman who has inspired thousands upon thousands of people with her organization More Love Letters. She is set to release her first book on March 10th, detailing her experiences as a post-graduate working in New York City and the loneliness that led to her depositing love letters in coffee shops, train cars, and everywhere else. While I only spent an hour talking with Hannah, it was like receiving my own letter containing words of encouragement, support, and understanding. I hope her words (and her book) empower you as much as they did me.
Tell me a little bit about yourself and your organization, More Love Letters.
My name is Hannah Brencher and I am 26 years old. I started More Love Letters back in 2011. Basically, we use the power of social media to write and send love letters to strangers all over the world. The website works two-fold. People can go on the website and learn how to leave letters all over the world. Other people are finding those letters and sending back their stories to be published on the site. The biggest portion of the organization is the Love Letter bundles, bundles of letters for people that have been nominated by friends or family and are going through a particularly rough time. We have our community of people writing those letters, pouring all their love into those letters, bundling those letters and sending them out to that one person in need. That’s basically how the organization works- on the premise of love and support and showing people they’re not alone, that there is solidarity online and offline.
More Love Letters emerged out of a dark time in your life after graduating college and moving to NYC. How did the organization grow out of that despair?
I wish I had a moment or something I could pinpoint where I was like, “Yeah, I’m going to leave letters all over the city.” I specifically had a really hard time when I was riding back and forth on the train from the Bronx to Manhattan. I’ve always been a feeler- I feel all the feels all the time- and I would cry on the train everyday. I would think that nothing would ever change and that there was no purpose to life, being overdramatic. There was one day when I noticed this woman on the train, and for some reason, I wanted to talk to her. But, in New York City that’s not really the thing to do! It’s not really acceptable to go up to strangers. So, I started writing her a letter. I wrote another letter and then another and pretty soon I had a notebook filled. I realized I was never going to use these letters for anything so I decided to leave the first one behind on the train. It read on the front, “if you find this letter, it’s for you.” From there, I kind of just got hooked on it. I started leaving them in coffee shops and in library books and it became something to do while on the train or in stores. I don’t think there was ever any belief that it was ever going to be bigger than me. But for me, personally, it felt good to leave parts of me behind in the city. Not even so that I could encourage people, but it was enough to just be honest on a page and I felt such a freedom in writing. It’s like writing pages in a diary- once they’re written, you feel relief.
Did you carry a bunch around with you and drop them off as you went through your day or did you ever go into the city with the goal of depositing these letters?
It started off as a bunch of letters that I would leave around but then it became something where I would have a notebook with me, write a letter, and leave it somewhere near where I was. Eventually, people were mailing me letters and asking me to drop their letters around the city for other people. I’d overhear a conversation in a coffee shop and be inspired to write and leave a letter for whoever sat there next. It’s about finding all the spots where people will happen across your letter, read it and be blessed by it.
It’s hard enough to deal with your own demons, but to then translate it into such a positive thing for others is incredible.
I think that I didn’t see the gravity of it when I first started to do it. I felt very conscious of the fact that these were letters and words that I think I wanted to be able to give myself but was somehow unable to. I think we’ve all experienced those times where you can encourage other people and tell them they’re going to get through it, but you yourself never believe those words. I was hoping that if I could leave behind this message of love enough times, that maybe eventually I would feel worthy of it myself.
What are you looking forward to in the future with More Love Letters?
We are planning to definitely continue growing, but our biggest thing is to focus on the local communities. We have campus chapters, currently over 53. We’ve seen such a great response on these campuses and the chapters have been able to really get back to the foundation of More Love Letters. We want people to be able to do this for their communities. It is powerful to find an anonymous letter, but it’s more empowering for a community to support each other and find solace through letters from a neighbor. We want to build up a model for people in different communities to take the mission of More Love Letters and use it to benefit their community. We can get people to contribute letters all over the world for a letter bundle but we can’t be the ones to instantly get letters to people who have undergone a natural disaster or school shooting or tragic death. Knowing that we have the ability to help people become touchstones for their own communities who know their home better than we do and then provide them with love letters is the next level. We’ve already managed to go global in a way I never thought possible, so now it’s about getting back to the local level. We want to make More Love Letters something that people can say, “I’m part of this and this is something I can do in my daily life that is really important to me.”
For more information please visit moreloveletters.squarespace.com