Ashley Green loves lots of things. She also loves a lot of people – some she knows very well, some she has only known for a few seconds, and others she has never even met. It may be hard to imagine how, and why, Ashley is able to love everyone equally. For Ashley, it was easy to figure out ‘why’ she could love everyone, but the ‘how’ took a bit of thinking. That was until late last year, when Ashley created Love Letters To Strangers.
“Essentially, it is just random acts of kindness, little notes that we send to people,” says Ashley as she excitedly displays half a dozen, palm-sized cards, each uniquely decorated with a heartfelt quote or message inside. “These notes can be given to somebody I know, or somebody I’ve never met before, sometimes it’s people on the street, sometimes I leave them in books for people or in a coffee shop or toy store… They’re just notes of encouragement, sometimes they are quotes, or just little pick-me-ups and I just write them to people to make them smile, to encourage them, to remind them that there’s someone out there thinking of them to brighten their day.”
Currently running Love Letters out of her house, Ashley has already handed out close to 500 notes. Initially, she created and handed out each love letter herself. “I was very secretive about it, and I wanted it to be a random thing and not connect it to my name… As time went on, I realized that there was nothing wrong with connecting it to who I am.” Now that the word is spreading more people want to get involved: “People come over to my house and we’ll decorate and write on them and inspire each other”.
Even with a small team of people from Edmonton and Calgary putting love letters together, you would think that it would be difficult to write so many letters, especially to people that you’ve never met before. Ashley, however, uses herself as inspiration. “When I write the love letters usually I’m writing them to myself to remind me to stop apologizing for the things that I didn’t do, or to remind myself that I am stronger than I am. I think of who I am and the words that I need to hear, and I write that for myself and leave it for someone.” Even if someone hasn’t received a Love Letter, Ashley has made sure that they still get the inspiration they deserve. Her website is updated with notes of encouragement all the time.
As it turns out, Ashley has lots of experience writing and receiving notes of appreciation. “My mom and my family are very big into appreciating the people around them through little notes and little cards or little gifts and stuff like that. It had nothing to do with the amount of money it was, but it was just a simple reminder that you’re being appreciated, or, if you’re having a bad day, that you need to smile and be reminded that somebody is loving you and thinking of you.” Aside from providing her with appreciation and inspiration, Ashley says her family and friends are what keeps her going. “I think throughout my life there have been people who’ve been there for a short period of time who’ve done amazing, big changes in my life, and there are people who have been there constantly. I appreciate each one for what they have given me.”
Being surrounded by all this love is part of the reason ‘why’ Ashley decided to start Love Letters: “I have a lot of love in my life and a lot of people who support and love me… I’ve gotten to a point where I’ve now filled up so much that I need to give something back.” The response to her project has been positive; most people are really surprised that anyone would take time out of their day to love a stranger.
And, just because her project is called ‘Love Letters to Strangers’ doesn’t mean that her notes are limited to people she doesn’t know. In fact, Ashley has seen the impact of her project through the notes she’s given to her family and friends. “I had a friend who was going through a very difficult time… I went to visit them and I left love letters all over the [house]. He sent me an email a few days later and said that he found them… and since then he’s turned his life around and he’s making these changes and becoming a more positive person. It’s never something I’ve ever imagined would happen.”
Hearing Ashley talk about the impact of her project makes it very obvious that inspiring people is exactly what Ashley loves to do. In terms of Love Letters to Strangers, she has big plans for the future, including hosting workshops where people can create, write, and send love letters to people while sharing their stories about receiving or giving one away. Ashley also encourages other to send out their own love letters: “I didn’t think that a little note could do that much, but sometimes it’s the little things, the small things, that make the biggest impact”.