It's how one woman coped with depression, and now it's a global movement of love.
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Letters of Peace


Five years ago, a woman named Hannah began writing anonymous letters to complete strangers.

After moving to New York, Hannah found herself battling depression. While there are many ways to cope with depression, Hannah's approach was both novel and obvious: She started writing, but not in a blog. Instead, she penned individual letters to strangers in the city.


"It's been nearly five years. Nearly five years since a letter, just like this one, turned my world upside down. I moved to New York City right after college. I did not expect something like depression would meet me in those city streets. That's the thing about depression though. You don't get to tell it when it comes and goes. It's an illness. That depression came to meet me and to try to cope, I started writing letters to strangers in this city. I started leaving them across Manhattan. I filled them with stories, questions, hopes, all the words I could not give myself at the age of 22."

But what began as a coping mechanism for Hannah has blossomed into a powerful campaign, reaching people across New York.

Her letters were no longer just about her story. People receiving them felt connected and inspired to reach out to others. Their voices joined hers in a chorus of acceptance and love. Anonymous bonds were built. There's something comforting about knowing that a complete stranger cares enough about humanity to reach out to other unknowns.

"Those letters spiraled into something so much larger than me, so much bigger than a girl who was writing and leaving letters for strangers, just because her mother had once done the same for her. That is always the most beautiful part of the story though. When the story stops being all about you and it has the chance to become the story that belongs to so many others. I spent a year writing letters to anyone who emailed me."

Hannah blogged about her letter-writing experience, asking a simple question: "Do you need someone to write you a love letter today?"

The responses that question generated transformed Hannah's anonymous letter-writing project — meant as a means to cope with her own depression — into the thriving, global community that is More Love Letters.

More Love Letters is where people can contribute to bundles of letters sent out to those in need of encouragement and hope.

"Those hundreds of first letters laid the foundation for what is now a community of thousands of ordinary people writing to someone who needs encouragement. It's called More Love Letters. It's a place on the internet where you can read the stories of strangers and write to them. Your letter will be one in hundred to show up at their door at a time when they need a push, a nudge, a reminder to just keep going. Maybe that is you."

Sometimes we need a little reminder that we are deserving of love. Sometimes we need a letter of our own.

Living with depression can be really hard. Depression lies. Depression harms. Depression kills. Sometimes it's really helpful to just hear some small words of encouragement to keep you going through it all, even when things get really bad. Hannah's project is one small, crucial way of giving that.

"Maybe you need the reminder today. Keep fighting. You deserve good things for your life. It sounds too simple, but it is amazing the number of people who believe that for other people, but not themselves. You deserve them too. All the good things. Don't settle. Don't give in. This world needs you. Don't quit."


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When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Photo by Tod Perry

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