A book review by Bel Mooney which appeared in the Daily Mail, 21 March 2014.
ONE MILLION LOVELY LETTERS BY JODI ANN BICKLEY (Yellow Kite £14.99)
The well-meaning suggestion that good can come out of suffering is maddening to those who are mired deep in unhappiness and/or illness.
The last thing they want is people telling them that it will all get better in time and that they may look back on this period of midfortune and see it as a blessing. Or at least, that’s what I thought.
Yet in a sense that is just what 25-year-old Jodi Ann Bickley has done in her extraordinary internet project and book: One Million Lovely Letters.
In order to heal herself she set out to heal the world with simple, hand-written letters, embellished with hearts and glitter, sprinkled as lavishly as her endearments.
She tells people they are special and the world loves them. That’s all.
Jodi came from a warm, loving, rumbustious, untidy Birmingham family, where Mum was (and is) the centre, ever since Jodi’s addict father left them when she was three.
The family strength was crucial to what happened in 2011 and its aftermath. Jodie had battled an eating disorder and disappointments in love to turn herself into a performance poet, playing at festivals and having a good time.
Then while performing at the Isle of Wight’s Bestival, Jodie was bitten by a tick and contracted meningoencephalitis.
Her account of this time is very affecting: she nearly died and her life would never be the same again.
The long-term fall-out of her condition has left her with ME ad she writes with the acute itenlligence of the loss of the familiar Self suffered by people who become very ill and disabled.
The dark day came when she had what she calls her ‘kerb moment’ – (and this says this affects many people) stand on the kerb and think how easy it would be to step off into the traffic. ‘No more carrying the burden, no more worry or fear’.
She counted out 300 tablets of prescription medicine and lay on the floor ‘thinking of reasons to justify what I wanted to do’.
Them something silly distracted her and a light flashed in her brain. ‘I could either sit there, letting my feelings consume me, or I had to do something magical… something useful, something good. I want to use my time on earth well.’
When Jodi was five her beloved grandmother died and, to help the child make sense of this, her mother suggested she write Nan a letter she could read in heaven.
From that point onwards this thoughtful and loving young woman realized that old-fashioned letters (emails won’t do) are a way of making people happy, so she developed a habit of leaving upbeat messages for strangers to find.
Within half an hour she had set up a website: onemillionlovelyletters.com. ‘
My aim: if I end up talking one person down from the kerb then it’s a success… So I sent out a call to every other person on the planet: if you are someone you know needs to be reminded how amazing you are, I will send a letter.’
What followed makes inspiring reading. Jodi has succeeded in a way she could not have possibly imagined.
The letters she prints and her sweet (yes, that word) replies bring light into a gloomy world, and I for one am grateful for her message. Which is very simple:
‘Love other people with everything you have and don’t be scared to… Help other people, always. Just because someone doesn’t ask, doesn’t mean they don’t need it… Be kind in tiny ways, smile at a passing stranger, help someone with a pushchair up the stairs…’
And so on. This is about passing on the goodness that really does exist. So here goes:
Each Saturday I answer problem letters in the Daily Mail and sometimes they make me so sad. I feel lost and sometimes cross.
You’ve helped me! I’m 42 years older than youi, with academic qualifications and a world of experience and all that – yet I have learned from your wisdom.
So I want to tell you that you are an extraordinary girl doing vital work in a world that needs you, so you must take care of yourself.
With love and thanks from Bel. xx