After Illness and Depression, Woman Writes 3,000 'Lovely Letters' to Cheer Up Strangers

05/08/2014 at 03:05 PM EDT

Jodi Ann Bickley: One Million Lovely Letters project Cheers up Strangers
Jodi Ann Bickley (left), and one of her "lovely letters"
Courtesy Jodi Ann Bickley
In an age of texting and email, Britain's Jodi Ann Bickley is already unique – by her estimation she's written more than 3,000 letters by hand, a count that could put her up with the literary mavens of a bygone age. But the reason she's sending these letters is even more special. As part of her One Million Lovely Letters project, Bickley writes letters of support to strangers going through tough times.

The idea began in Bickley's own string of misfortunes. An award-winning young poet, she was bitten by a tick after performing on the Isle of Wight; the bite gave her encephalitis, which in turn led to a small stroke. After her recovery stalled, she was diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome. The combination of all the illnesses led to depression and thoughts of suicide.

Finally, in February 2013, she hit her lowest point, pulled back from the brink only by a push notification from a cartoon makeover app.

"This thing shone on my phone saying, 'We need our facials, big night.' I just laughed and thought if I can laugh at these girls on my phone then I'm definitely not ready to pull the plug just yet," she told the Mirror.

Realizing she needed something to do in her bedridden hours, Bickley decided to turn a lifelong habit into a formal project.

"Ever since Ms. Wright's science class in year seven, I have been leaving people notes," she wrote on her website. "In between text books on buses, in libraries and as I got older, in pubs, restaurants and as I got a little older in doctors' surgeries and hospital beds – anywhere I thought that maybe someone might need a little bit of cheering up, reassurance or just a reminder that actually they are pretty lovely."

Soon, Bickley set up a website and and put out a call for anyone interested in receiving a heartfelt letter. Within an hour, she received 100 requests. One Million Lovely Letters was born.

More than a year later, the project is still going strong, with Bickley providing handwritten reassurances to single mothers, stressed-out students and victims of bad breakups, among others. Occasionally she will post images of the letters to her Instagram page, to share their messages of love and support with the world.



In July, Bickley gave a TEDx talk about the project.

"In the U.K. alone, there are 62,641,000 people, in the whole wide world there are 7,038,044,500 people," she explained. "The average person has 3 close friends and 19 mates, so take that off and you are still left with 7,038,044,478 people – and every single one of those strangers has a dial they need to boost."

"If I can actually talk one person down from the curb, then that's a success," she said.



After 3,000 letters, Bickley has turned One Million Lovely Letters into a book. She's still writing letters, though, and if you need one you can request it by emailing onemillionlovelyletters@gmail.com.

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