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When was the last time you wrote a love letter? And when was the last time you wrote a love letter to a stranger?
This was the invitation that was made to us as we sat in a London park on a summer’s evening.
It was in the name of an experiment in ‘pronoia’, facilitated by Tiu de Haan for 6Heads, a sustainability network. I’d never heard the word before, but it turns out that it is the opposite of paranoia. Instead of seeing the bad in the world, as if the world is against you, you see the good.
So we took our pen and paper, and wrote a love letter to a stranger. We had just a few minutes to do this, so it was never going to be a Shakespearean sonnet. But it would be a message direct from the heart. I imagined the type of person who would be curious and receptive enough to pick up the letter from wherever I left it. I thanked them for their curiosity and for going about the world with their eyes open, mentioned that the world needed more people like them, and wished them a good evening. I sealed it up in an envelope, wrote, ‘For beautiful you, yes you!’ on the front and stuck on a little red heart sticker.
Then it was time to go and release our love letters to the world. I left mine under a pile of Evening Standard newspapers by the tube station. As we released our love letters to the world, we also left little messages for people to find. One of our groups had bought sunflowers to give to people, and it was wonderful to see the genuine joy on their face when they were presented with the flower. Reaching out in such a way helps others to see the good in the world. And it really is true that the gift is in the giving.
In one of the other experiments we did, we had to choose a moderately annoying or irritating event that had happened to us in the last 24 hours. We had to tell the story, then tell it like it was the worst thing in the world ever, then in as surreal a way as possible, and then as if it was actually a good thing. Although it seemed like that would be a hard thing to do, each of us was surprised to find that it was possible to see it in a good way – who knew that frustrations with a tax website could actually have a silver lining if you choose to see it?
Taking part in experiments such as this is such a powerful reminder of how we can choose how we see the world – and how we can choose what kind of impact we want to have in the world, including what we buy. If we choose to see the good in the world, it makes sense that we align with, for example, shoes that are made with love in a way that minimises environmental impacts. (Wonder which shoes we could be talking about ?-)
If you’re inspired to write your own love letter to a stranger, check out the website ‘More Love Letters’. Go on, you will be the first one that feels happier!