Ask Ashley Green about her favourite Edmonton places, and numerous locations along Whyte Avenue will certainly make the list.
“One of them is here, Block 1912,” said Green, a local photographer. “Because of their fantastic lattes, but also their secret hidden drawers of notes, napkin notes. This is the reason I come and sit here.
“This is love letter central, it’s beautiful. People leaving notes in drawers is the coolest, craziest thing, and I leave love letters in here and write little notes all the time.”
Block 1912 isn’t the only place Green leaves “love letters” — small pieces of decorated paper with inspirational, funny or thoughtful messages.
Three and a half years ago, Green started her Love Letters to Strangers project as a way to show kindness to people. Though it originally started as something just for herself, she now hosts not only public workshops, but works with schools and youth organizations to talk about bullying, and with organizations and workplaces about positive change and the power of kindness.
“It’s showing kindness and love to anyone you may meet throughout your day,” Green said. “And we just happen to do that through little notes of encouragement and humour and love, and I think that’s the biggest part of the project, but it’s a reminder to look for those opportunities, to bring a little joy into someone’s life.”
When she started doing youth workshops at the Alberta Community and Cooperative summer camp she volunteers at, Green said she found that the project addressed one of the unanswered questions in youth leadership.
“If you want to do something for somebody else, go out there and do it, and be a leader. But there’s not a lot of answering of the question, ‘How?’” Green said. “I find that vague, go reach out to somebody, is a very hard concept to grasp after you come back from the high of a big youth conference and you’re excited.
“I find that this is easy for them to do, it doesn’t take a ton of time, it’s something that they can incorporate day to day, and it boosts their confidence by doing it and making other people feel great, and it boosts the people that receive it, their confidence as well.”
During the public workshops, Green provides the art supplies, and then participants make notes that they can then choose to hand to someone, or leave in a bus stop or library book for someone to find.
The challenge Green faces now is to develop a system so that workshops can be easily replicated, and where she doesn’t necessarily need to be present to facilitate. Her goal is to build a team of people who would provide support with setup, funding, social media and any other strengths.
Right now, she has been partnering with other organizations in town, such as Youth Empowerment and Social Services (YESS) and the Edmonton Food Bank, because it allows Love Letters to Strangers to be a bigger part of the amazing things happening in Edmonton, she said.
“I think [Love Letters] works here because of a few reasons,” she said. “Because the people are fantastic, and I think the people in Edmonton want to do wonderful things for each other, and I think there are so many cool things happening, and they want to get involved, and they want to make a positive impact.”
“It’s a big city, sometimes you can feel lonely in it, and if that’s so, finding one of these will make it seem a little less lonely.”