Today marks one year since the COVID-19 pandemic turned the world topsy-turvy.
I was leaving the eighth grade career fair that Walker County School counselors host each year at Bevill State in Sumiton when I heard that Alabama's first case had been confirmed.
There were rumors going around that schools might shut down a week before spring break. Gov. Kay Ivey made it official that evening.
It was Friday the 13th, and normal was over. For those of us who experienced loss in the past year, normal won't return no matter how many spaces reopen or how many people are vaccinated.
On dark days, light can break through in unexpected places.
I was recently invited to check out a new Facebook page called Love Letters.
People are encouraged to pass along the name of anyone in their life who needs a word of encouragement, and the page creator, who deliberately remains anonymous but is local, will send a note saying that someone has been thinking of him or her.
Since joining the page, I have noticed it grow to include a weekly invitation to send in prayer requests and the occasional gift hidden around town for the right stranger to find.
I wanted to know more about Love Letters so I could share it with Eagle readers. In order to respect the anonymity rule, I sent in some questions to Lovey (a name I made up for the purposes of this column with a nod to "Gilligan's Island," obviously). This is what I learned.
Lovey got the idea in early February while listening to a sermon in which the preacher asked, "How are YOU specifically loving others?”
"My spiritual gift is encouragement, and I came to the conclusion that there was a lot more that I could be doing. I’m an introvert, so I knew it wasn’t going to be some big, showy gesture. I like to be out of the spotlight, but I’ve always loved finding that perfect word or gift that makes someone’s day," Lovey said.
The idea to incorporate "snail mail" came from the letters and cards with hand-drawn illustrations that her mother once sent to her each day while she was in GA Camp.
The quarantine part of the pandemic didn't unsettle Lovey, who describes herself as an introvert and a homebody, but it did open her eyes to how many people experienced loneliness before COVID increased their isolation.
"Whether it’s a single parent, an elderly widow, or whoever, people are lonely. They’re hurting. They crave love and just desire to know that they are remembered. So many don’t have loved ones close by and may not hear positive words very often. So, that played a big part in the stirrings of my mind in the creating of the page," Lovey said.
Love letters have been sent for all kinds of occasions — a get-well, a thank you, a happy birthday. One woman asked Lovey to send one to her niece in Montevallo telling her how proud she is of her.
Mondays are for prayer requests on the page. Anyone who doesn't want to share a request publicly can send it to Lovey directly.
I asked why Lovey thought anonymity was important, both for herself and for people who don't want to post publicly.
One answer was obvious because it's Biblical. There are several places in the New Testament where Christians are warned against doing good deeds in order to be seen by others.
This way, Lovey is the vessel and God gets the glory.
What I hadn't considered is that not knowing who is behind the page means that people who know Lovey in real life aren't drawn to it or turned off by it based on their personal relationship with her.
"There’s also a freedom to not having to feel like I have to live up to any certain standard because of who I am. I do have to be careful with what I share, because I have a lot of friends who follow the page and I don’t want to give myself away, but I think there’s an excitement that comes with the not knowing. It’s one thing to get mail from a friend, but completely another to get mail from a secret admirer. There’s just something about knowing that you’re thought of. Not only by family and friends, but by someone that you don’t know. Someone you may have touched and not even known you had an impact on," she said.
If you aren't already following Love Letters on Facebook, I encourage you to check it out.
Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor and co-host of Left on Red, available wherever you get your podcasts. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and at (205) 221-2840.