Tell others of your experiences through a letter
Over the past 12 months residents of northwestern Oregon have suffered through devastating wildfires, searing heat waves, political unrest, a raging pandemic and rancor in nearly all sectors of society. Recognizing that, the Oregon Humanities group's annual letter-writing campaign, Dear Stranger, is inviting writers to share their thoughts on the environment, politics and cultural issues with someone they've never met.
Dear Stranger was formulated in 2014 to create a better understanding among Oregonians with vastly different backgrounds, experiences and beliefs. More than 250 people from 29 states participated in 2020 and the process could not be simpler: write a letter, get a letter, make a new connection. In past years the effort also has assigned a theme to the letters accepted.
"The need for human connection feels more urgent than ever," said Ben Waterhouse, communications manager for Oregon Humanities and creator of the Dear Stranger project. "It feels like we're in a constant state of crisis, with fires and the pandemic and partisan conflict, and that makes it really hard to reach out and learn from other people. Dear Stranger is an opportunity to hear from other Oregonians and to be heard — and hopefully learn something new."
Writers are urged to follow a simple instruction when crafting their letters: "Write about the climate where you live — the weather, politics or culture. What's your climate like? Has the climate changed during the time you've lived where you do now? What worries you about climate? How do you think people could make it better?"
The letters will be swapped with other anonymous writers, and each person will receive a letter from the person they directed their letter to.
"What happens next is up to the writers," Waterhouse said. "If they'd like to write back, they can do so through Oregon Humanities."
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