Send A Letter, Share A Story, Help The Healing With Never Ever Give Up
Have you seen the bright yellow mailbox?
It pops up in different Cleveland-area locations. It’s an offering, a beacon of hope in the darkness. And it’s been a unique way to connect, share our traumas and cope — even before the pandemic.
The Never Ever Give Up project, led by Allison Meyer, encourages people to share their hardest times through handwritten letters. She collects letters of struggle, anonymous stories about someone’s most difficult experiences past or present hardest times and others respond with letters of hope, encouragement and support.
Meyer hangs letters of stuggle and hope on the pillars of Hart Crane Park to prepare for the yellow mailbox's debut in 2019. [Never Ever Give Up]
Both letters of struggle and hope are collected through an online submission form and the bright yellow mailbox that travels to different neighborhood. The letters are posted on Never Ever Give Up’s website and Instagram.
“[The] exchange [of letters] can really help people feel seen and supported in their community,” Meyer said. “You know, not everybody can go to therapy. Not everybody… has a supportive group of people immediately available to them. But through the mailbox and through the Instagram, you can get those things in your community in a different way… you can share. You can be heard and you can get help.”
For the storytellers, sitting down and writing about their hardest moments allows them to reflect and see more clearly how strong and resilient they are. The process also allows the struggle letter-writer to let go of some of the weight of carrying those hard moments.
“When you're just carrying it all by yourself, it's extremely heavy. And when you start to share it, other people can help carry it with you. And that lightens the burden and makes things a little bit easier,” Meyer said.
For people reading the stories and writing the responses, the processes opens the door for them to be inspired by how amazing people can be. Sometimes, the letters of hope writers are moved to respond because they have also experienced that same hardship or pain, and feel more connected to the strangers around them as they read of others' struggles. They are reminded that you do not know what someone else is going through and to lead with kindness.
Connecting her community makes Meyer feel more connected, too, she said. Meyer started this project not long after her mother was killed in traffic accident. After losing her only parent she did not talk about her loss or pain, out of fear of a making everyone else sad.
“So that got really, really heavy for me to carry,” Meyer shared with ideastream. “And so I went to an open mic one night and just sort of blurted everything out. And I was terrified. But by the end of the night, there were like eleven people waiting to talk to me, hugged me, cried with me. Someone bought me a beer. I could not believe that people responded in that way.”
Her experience made her want to facilitate that same relief for other people. But she knew not everyone can come to an open mic or is ready to attach their face and voice to their hardest moments in front of strangers. So she knew the letter exchange should be public, but anonymous.
Online submissions opened up in the fall of 2018 and the mailbox made its debut appearance in Hart Crane Park on June 1, 2019. Funding for the yellow mailbox came from Accelerate, a philanthropic pitch competition led by Cleveland Leadership Center.
The yellow mailbox appeared at Acelerate in March for just one day. Meyer received the funds for the yellow mailbox from Acelerate one year prior. [Never Ever Give Up]
Meyer enjoys facilitating the exchange of the stories and letters and tries not to insert herself into the exchange too much. Her goal, she said, is leading with kindness and continuing the work of breaking down the stigmas around struggling.
Since the coronavirus pandemic reached Northeast Ohio, not much has changed for the Never Ever Give Up project directly, though the content of some of the letters has. But people were experiencing horrible things before the pandemic and carrying the traumas of life with them, she said. People were finding ways to persevere before the pandemic and that has continued. Now, Meyer is encouraging people to write letters of struggle and letters of hope through the lens of the pandemic – our shared trauma.
The Big Yellow Mailbox is now at the corner of Euclid and Mayfield! Thank you to @universitycircle for hosting it. Take a physically distant walk and drop in a #LetterOfHope and we will share it. These Letters of Hope can be words of connection, encouragement, support, or gratitude to those facing hardship, grief, stress, and/or anxiety during this time. Write to someone in your community, a neighbor, an essential worker, or a loved one that you think could use a Letter of Hope. Or write about your own experience during COVID-19 and how you are navigating it. Cultivating hope during hard times is essential. #neverevergiveup
Online submissions continue, Meyer said, but not everyone has internet access and even in our electronic age there’s still a special something about “sending” a letter. The mailbox is rotating through different communities so as many people as possible can see it share their letters.
In April the mailbox visited in Coventry Village. It is currently in University Circle.