With her brightly colored hair, soft-spoken demeanor and a smile that could melt icebergs, Jodi Ann Bickley doesn’t come across as the powerful force of good she’s become. But once you’ve heard her story, you’ll quickly realize this quiet young woman has one of the biggest, kindest hearts on earth.
After spending a weekend at an outdoor festival, life handed Jodi Ann an unthinkable adversity. But rather than allowing it to define her, she used it as fuel to inspire and comfort thousands of people around the globe. Here’s her powerful story:
Shortly after arriving home Jodi Ann dropped to the floor writhing from an indescribable pain in her head. As doctors tried to diagnose this mystery illness, the farthest thing from anyone’s mind was the global movement in kindness it would trigger.
Doctors discovered that a tick had gotten into Jodi Ann’s ear and bitten her; a bite that once infected became a potentially life-threatening brain infection. With this diagnosis the brave twenty-two-year-old from Birmingham, England braced herself for a long, arduous battle of treatment and recovery.
The illness was merciless; chronic and complete physical exhaustion kept her bedridden to the point she eventually had to learn to walk again. Her mental health also suffered, and Jodi Ann was struggling with depression. Some days were so bad she questioned if she could continue living in the constant lethargy and pain.
Not one to give in, Jodi Ann decided she had to make a choice: Either succumb to the pain and depression and sadness, or occupy her recovery time by making a difference in other people’s lives. Not surprisingly, Jodi Ann chose the latter.
Remembering the warm, loving feelings she got as a child by writing cards – “hugs in a letter” – to her dying Nana, Jodi Ann wondered if such kindness and support could lift anyone else’s spirits. With this spark of inspiration and a strong desire to help others, Jodi Ann began her social movement One Million Lovely Letters.
Using a blog, Jodi Ann asked anyone who wanted encouragement to email her, and in return she’d handwrite (and post) a letter providing kind words and much needed support to shed light upon what were undoubtedly otherwise dark days. Even in her most fragile state, Jodi Ann put the needs of others above her own. So what happened?
Many years later, and with the help of her volunteer and staff Jodi Ann Bickley’s One Million Lovely Letters have sent over seven thousand letters to over one hundred and fifty countries! But that’s not all…
Besides multiple press interviews, television appearances and a TEDx talk, Jodi Ann has authored two bestselling books, with one translated into several languages. She’s had a BBC 1 documentary made about her, and in 2015 was recognized as “Point of Light” by Downing Street. For us Canadians, that’s the Prime Minister of England’s office!
These many accolades and accomplishments came about because of Jodi Ann’s selfless, simple idea of letting strangers know they are special, important and above all, LOVED; but what does her story mean for the rest of us? Her example proves that despite how busy we think we are, by just writing and sending hand-written letters or cards we can make people we care about feel special, important and loved.
A few years back a friend and I were discussing how it was difficult to stay in touch with old friends, noting that while social media was okay, it’s impersonal. I told her Jodi Ann’s story, and it inspired her to write and mail cards for the next thirty days to all those people she wanted to re-connect with.
When the month was up, I asked how it went. She told me that:
- She relished the positive reminders each reconnection had for her·
- Many letters initiated return phone calls, cementing the reconnections
- Her friends were overwhelmed with feelings of love, support and gratitude
- Anyone can create magic at anytime with just a card, a pen and a stamp
Surprise letters that show up out of the blue are like little voices that say, “I love you” or “I care about you” or “You are so important to me!” As Jodi Ann calls them, they truly are hugs in a letter, and who wouldn’t want to receive one of those? I know I would!
And for the record, once my friend completed her thirty-day task, I honored her in the most fitting way I could think of: By picking out a beautiful and writing her a note that expressing my pride in her, and congratulating her on the accomplishment.
Whether we want to touch thousands of people or one old friend, handwritten message makes the act extra special for both those receiving as well as us sending. Now all that we have to do is to act on it.
So what are we waiting for? Let’s get to the card store; then the post office!
PLAN OF ACTION
· Make a list of people you’d like to surprise with handwritten cards
· Go shopping! (dollar Stores are cost effective!)
· Write one a day for a week, and post them off
· Go to www.onemillionlovelyletters.com
*This article first appeared in the book “Punch Failure in the Face, Then Buy it a Beer”
Author Bio: David Knapp-Fisher
As founder of The Inspired Humans Project, David loves sharing inspirational stories. His TEDx talk, “Discipline or Regret, a Father’s Decision” been viewed over 100,000 times, and his first book, “Punch Failure in The Face, Then Buy It a Beer” has 36 five star reviews on amazon.ca.
David lives in Victoria B.C. where he spends most of his time trying (& usually failing) to stump his son with movie trivia, or planning his next big adventure; both while drinking great coffee, of course.