The heartbreaking reason this 98-year-old spends weekends shredding mail.

Sometimes you come across someone's story and it touches you in a way you'll never forget.

Mary's story, captured in a short film called "Junk Mail," is one of those stories.


Photo courtesy of Charles Frank. Used with permission.

Mary is 98 years old. She has no children. And her husband died a few years ago.

She and her husband lived in the same house together — the one she still lives in today — for about four decades.

"Where could I go?" she responds rhetorically when asked if she enjoys living there. “I can't see. I can't hear. I can't live with my nieces. They all have their own family."

Photo via "Junk Mail"/Vimeo.

Many of us can't wait for the weekend. But for Mary, Saturday and Sunday mean 48 hours of loneliness.

On weekends, she ends up resorting to a tedious, inconsequential task, just to help pass the time.

"You know what I do? Don't laugh," she explains. "I get junk mail. I strip it. And after I strip it, I cut it up in small [pieces], put it in a bag, put it out for garbage. I have to do something. Otherwise, I'll go nuts."

Photo via "Junk Mail"/Vimeo.

That heartbreaking quote inspired the name for "Junk Mail."

Created by production company Voyager, "Junk Mail" follows Mary on her day-to-day routine in Easton, Pennsylvania, capturing the difficulty of growing old and lonely.

It's a difficulty plenty of people know all too well.

A study by the University of California, San Francisco conducted between 2002 and 2008 found that 43% of people over 60 years old reported feeling lonely. What's more, those who experienced loneliness also experienced more significant declines in health over the years, as The New York Times noted.

So while Mary's story might be tough to hear, her struggle to stay connected to the world is not as rare as we might think.

While Mary's weekends are spent shredding junk mail, her weekdays are filled with a bright spot: a local senior center.

During the week, Mary visits Easton Lifestyle Campus for seniors, where she dines, plays games, and chats among friends. She "can't wait 'til morning comes, so [she] can go."

Debbie Mertz, director of the center, said folks at the center may feel increasingly excluded because of their age.

"Their children are now having grandchildren," she explained in the film. "So they kind of get pushed off to the side. They're not as needed, they can't do as much, so they come here."

Photo via "Junk Mail"/Vimeo.

But we shouldn't feel sorry for Mary. While her story tugs at the heartstrings, she's certainly loved by many.

"She encapsulated the spirit and energy and the ideology behind what [the senior center] represented," Charles Frank, the film's 21-year-old director, told Upworthy.

"She absolutely is one of the most beloved people there. She's the center of everyone's attention."

Frank — who said he was inspired by the senior center while visiting during filming for a different project — now considers Mary a "surrogate grandmother." And it's no wonder, either — her resilience and positive attitude are evident throughout his work.

"God is good to me," she said. "Who is 98 years old and still walking on their feet? I am. ... I am."

Photo via "Junk Mail"/Vimeo.

You can view "Junk Mail" below. It's certainly worth the watch.

But be warned: You should have tissues on hand.

And to anyone who may be inspired to reach out to Mary, Frank asked that viewers send Voyager a direct message through their Facebook page. He will follow up with directions on how you can send Mary a hello.

Voyager is planning on giving Mary the messages of support during a screening of the film sometime during November.

Check out "Junk Mail" below:

True

Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

"I try to share info in a positive way that gives people hope and makes them aware of solutions or things they can do to try to make the world a little better," she said.

For now, she's encouraging people through a barrage of persistent, informative, and entertaining emails with one goal in mind: getting people to VOTE. The thing about emailing people and talking about politics, according to Hebert, is to catch their attention—which is how lice got involved.

"When my kids were in elementary school, I was class parent for a year, which meant I had to send the emails to the other parents. As I've learned over the years, a good intro will trick your audience into reading the rest of the email. In fact, another parent told me that my emails always stood out, especially the one that started: 'We need volunteers for the Valentine's Party...oh, and LICE.'"

Hebert isn't working with a specific organization. She is simply trying to motivate others to find ways to plug in to help get out the vote.

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

Keep Reading Show less
via KrustyKhajiit / YouTube

Thomas F. Wilson played one of the most recognizable villains in film history, Biff Tannen, in the "Back to the Future" series. So, understandably, he gets recognized wherever he goes for the iconic role.

The attention must be nice, but it has to get exhausting answering the same questions day in and day out about the films. So Wilson created a card that he carries with him to hand out to people that answers all the questions he gets asked on a daily basis.

Keep Reading Show less
Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
True

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected diverse communities due largely in part to social factors such as inadequate access to housing, income, dietary options, education and employment — all of which have been shown to affect people's physical health.

Recognizing that inequity, Harlem-based chef JJ Johnson sought out to help his community maximize its health during the pandemic — one grain at a time.

Johnson manages FIELDTRIP, a health-focused restaurant that strives to bring people together through the celebration of rice, a grain found in cuisines of countless cultures.

"It was very important for me to show the world that places like Harlem want access to more health-conscious foods," Johnson said. "The people who live in Harlem should have the option to eat fresh, locally farmed and delicious food that other communities have access to."

Lack of education and access to those healthy food options is a primary driver of why 31% of adults in Harlem are struggling with obesity — the highest rate of any neighborhood in New York City and 7% higher than the average adult obesity rate across the five boroughs.

Obesity increases risk for heart disease or diabetes, which in turn leaves Harlem's residents — who are 76% Black or LatinX — at heightened risk for complications with COVID-19.

Keep Reading Show less

Sometimes a politician says or does something so brazenly gross that you have to do a double take to make sure it really happened. Take, for instance, this tweet from Lauren Witzke, a GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate from Delaware. Witzke defeated the party's endorsed candidate to win the primary, has been photographed in a QAnon t-shirt, supports the conspiracy theory that 9/11 was a U.S. government inside operation, and has called herself a flat earther.

So that's neat.

Witzke has also proposed a 10-year total halt on immigration to the U.S., which is absurd on its face, but makes sense when you see what she believes about immigrants. In a tweet this week, Witzke wrote, "Most third-world migrants can not assimilate into civil societies. Prove me wrong."

First, let's talk about how "civil societies" and developing nations are not different things, and to imply that they are is racist, xenophobic, and wrong. Not to mention, it has never been a thing to refer people using terms like "third-world." That's a somewhat outdated term for developing nations, and it was never an adjective to describe people from those nations even when it was in use.

Next, let's see how Twitter thwapped Lauren Witzke straight into the 21st century by proving her wrong in the most delicious way. Not only did people share how they or their relatives and friends have successfully "assimilated," but many showed that they went way, way beyond that.

Keep Reading Show less
via WatchMojo / YouTube

There are two conflicting viewpoints when it comes to addressing culture from that past that contains offensive elements that would never be acceptable today.

Some believe that old films, TV shows, music or books with out-of-date, offensive elements should be hidden from public view. While others think they should be used as valuable tools that help us learn from the past.

Keep Reading Show less