Kramer used her project as a healing process. Allowing herself to find, feel, share, and appreciate love in all of its forms has helped her overcome her emotional challenges.
With the new year upon us, we are all hastily setting resolutions to commit to for the next 365 days. From losing a few pounds to kicking a smoking habit, there are lots of ways to become a better you in 2019. Self-improvement is always a big deal during this time of year, but for Jen Kramer from Chicago, Illinois, the dawn of a new year meant something a little different as 2018 approached a year ago. At the beginning of last year, Kramer decided to find love - and share it. To do this, she started a simple project called #YearOfLove. Every day, she vowed to write a love letter - not necessarily the romantic kind - to someone in her life. For 365 days, she took to Facebook to share a short but deeply meaningful note to just about anyone, from family and friends to absolute strangers.
As 2017 came to a close, Kramer's mind was filled with thoughts about her aunt who was about to undergo a critical surgery. Thus, she wrote her first letter in the form of a Facebook post. This was the catalyst for her #YearOfLove. 364 letters of gratitude, appreciation, affection, and kindness followed. Kramer did not exactly have a systematic method for choosing her recipients; they were picked at random, without rhyme or reason. Nonetheless, each letter was penned beautifully and held immense significance.
“I didn’t have any strategy to whom I picked or why I picked them,” she explained in an interview with Chicago Tribune. “Mostly it was what was overwhelming me at the moment.” For example, she would write letters for a close family member one day, and then the next day she would write one to Norma, a custodian in her office building. One day, she wrote a letter to her server at a restaurant she visited; someone she had never met before but felt an intimate connection with despite that.
Kramer penned, "Today I met Mica. She waited on me when I stopped in for a cup of soup. Mica helped me with my Spanish and I with her English. She’s doing way better than I am. We talked about the holidays and family and it turned to her dreams of becoming a nurse and someday returning home to Mexico. She was wrapping up a 12-hour shift and headed home to study and make dinner for her family. I told her how proud I was of her. It’s amazing what happens when you are on the lookout for love."
She even wrote a moving letter to Chicago's Paul Bauer, a Chicago Police commander, and friend of Kramer’s. She wrote, “I keep asking myself, how does a city heal from a tremendous loss like this? The profound pain felt by those that worked alongside him, lived on his street, knew him from [his daughter] Grace’s school. And what about the complete strangers that feel equal heartbreak. How do we heal? I clearly don’t have the answer. But on this, the actual day dedicated to love, all I can come up with is this. That we must keep love at the forefront. Keep loving each other, keep forgiving each other and keep sharing our hearts, no matter the risk. Truth be told, it’s all that really matters anyway."
Kramer used her project as a healing process. Allowing herself to find, feel, share, and appreciate love in all of its forms has helped her overcome some of her emotional challenges. She explained, "In a lot of ways, it’s been an experiment in healing. Somehow, some way, showing love, expressing love, feeling love, exhibiting love has been a way to sort of navigate those moments of sadness — whether it’s about a person or a way things used to be or a way we used to treat each other."
She continued, "Maybe on some level, I’m doing this because I didn’t get to say what I wanted to say to my dad." Kramer's father passed away due to a massive and deadly heart attack. At the time, she was only 21 years old and away at college, which meant she never got the opportunity to tell him goodbye. Kramer asked, "Why don’t we say those things to people while they’re here? Maybe this will be a little lesson to myself and the few people who’ve sort of followed along. It’s easy to be kind, and it’s easy to tell people how you feel."
Now, she is hoping others will join in and celebrate love just as she did last year. “This was an experiment that absolutely altered the course of my life and the way I go through life,” she explained, “and it cost me nothing.” However, the return was far greater than anything she could have imagined when she first began the project. “Where I went, love showed up. I took it with me everywhere. I looked for love everywhere. You just have to look." If you want to join in on the #YearOfLove, just use the hashtag on social media platforms when you write and upload your own love letters.