Dear Mister “No Bag, Thanks”,

Minster No-Bag.jpg
Image by A Letter Per Person. Image Description: A grey silhouette of a man wearing a bucket hat hugging colourful silhouettes of his groceries.

Dear Mister “No Bag, Thanks”,

I noticed the many, many scares on your arms immediately. It was the first thing I noticed: one, because I don’t really look up to make eye contact with customers like I should be so I was already looking down at your shopping items, and two, I’ve seen scars like that multiple times before on multiple people.

I’m so sorry I didn’t say anything to you then. I couldn’t pull my gaze from your arms fast enough and I think you noticed me looking but please don’t think I was judging you. I wasn’t. I was just in shock. Even though I’ve had some training in this area, even though I’ve helped some of my best friends go through depression, I was caught completely off guard.

I so desperately wanted to tell you that you could reach out to me if you ever wanted. I wanted to tell you that I work there at least 5 days a week and if I’m not out front, I’m in the back. I wanted to tell you my name in case you didn’t see my name badge. But I couldn’t because I had never offered support like that to a stranger in person before. I had done it through phone calls and online conversations working at a helpline but never in person. I was so ashamed of my lack of strength, when you were showing yours.

I thought about you for days after that encounter. I hoped you would come back to the store so I knew you were okay. I feared I would never see you again and thought of the worst possible reasons as to why that would be. I felt guilt for not reaching out. I felt weak despite having all the experience and training to be the strong pillar of support. I felt like I failed another human being.

But you came back! I can’t tell you how happy I was. I specifically made a point to make eye contact so if you were creeped out I don’t blame you. I was so happy you were alive, that you were here in front of me! And this time I was able to tell you to “Take care” and “Have a nice day!” I know that those words may seem empty to you, words that may seem like I throw around to every customer as part of my service. Maybe the latter phrase, sure, but I still meant it. And I definitely have never said “Take care” to any other customer before and since. I really, really meant it. I really want you to take care of yourself.

Then I saw you a couple more times and each time I was so relieved and happy. Sometimes you’re in your work uniform. Sometimes you talk to my co-worker because you guys are apparently on familiar terms. And always, you’ll say some variant of “No bag, thanks” because you’re parked right across the street and proceed to hug all your items before going about the rest of your day. It makes me so happy to see you just living your life.

I know that there is a slight chance that those scars weren’t self-inflicted. Maybe it was an accident at a job. But I also know that more likely than not, those scars meant you went through a rough time, and that maybe perhaps you still are. Maybe you are over that dark chapter of your life. Maybe some scars were recent. I’ll never know and that’s okay. Regardless of what the situation is, I just want you to know that I care about you. I care about your wellbeing. And I definitely think about you when I haven’t seen you around for a couple of days.

After a few more exchanges since our first, I’ve made it clear I remember you and I know you remember me. But I’m going to try to make more small talk with you and hopefully turn that into conversation. I suck at conversing with strangers but I’m going to try. I just want you to know that if you ever feel shitty, ever feel tired, ever feel like leaving another scar, there is a person at the store you frequent who cares very deeply about you.

And if a stranger can care about you this much from one seemingly mundane interaction, imagine just how much your close friends and family care about you.

Sincerely,

A Letter Per Person

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Dear Kind Stranger,

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Image by A Letter Per Person. Image Description: A human figure holding up a lit lamp up to planet Earth, half of which can be seen thanks to the light but the other half is dark in the shadows.

Dear Kind Stranger,

Thank you so much. Your act of generosity and selfishness is something I will cherish and remember when I can be a Kind Stranger for someone else. Your action is a blessing, a lesson, a treasure, and an inspiration all in one. Kind Stranger, thank you. The ripple effect begins with you.

 I have, with the universe to thank, only hit what I know as rock bottom once in my life and you were there for me. You were there when I had no friends nearby, not to their fault because they were all in a different country, to help me through my times. They were there to the best of their abilities via Skype calls and consoling messages. You were there when my supposed “one” let me down for one last time and left me to move out on my own of our shared apartment. Kind Stranger, I was crying so loud, the loudest I have ever let myself cry and it was echoing in our empty bedroom. I bawled, I couldn’t breathe, I broke down. I called my best friend in America and he calmed me down and lifted me up. But my face showed how broken I was in each shade of red, in both swollen eyes, and in the teary tracks.

 You caught me in the elevator pushing my first load and made small talk with my palpable face. You asked me if I was moving and if I was okay, and when I told you why I was moving out on my own, you comforted saying, “You know, this is life. It happens but you have to remember to keep going and believe in yourself and the good in other people.” I thanked you because I knew deep down what you were saying was true but my heart was too broken to listen. Then despite my insistent declines, you pushed my cart to my new apartment a couple blocks down. Kind Stranger, I don’t think you know how close to crying I was again as you pushed my cart and I manoeuvred the front. Your kindness saved me. You are “the good in other people” I have to believe in and you were right there. You made me believe despite my broken state and I could not think of anything more a human being can do to another. Then you offered me your business card for when I ever needed any help or to talk. Thank you.

 Kind Stranger, I see your presence everywhere.  I see it when someone offers their seat to another on a crowded bus. I see it when a person helps pick up another person’s belongings. I see it when a friendly local gives directions to a lost tourist without being asked. I see it everywhere. It’s yours and their spirits that keep the good and love in the world from being forgotten.

 Thank you Kind Stranger, your light is what leads the world to the best it can be. To the best we can make it.

Sincerely,

A Letter Per Person

Dear Past Partner,

 

Past Partner.jpg
Card in image by just-wink (Carlton Cards). Illustrations in image by A Letter Per Person. Image Description: A greeting card that says “When I say ‘I love you,’ don’t even think of saying ‘I love you more’ because then I’ll say ‘No, I love you more’ and then we’ll have a huge, drawn-out, love-you-more argument.” on the front. On the inside of the card it says, “But I do love you more.”

Dear Past Partner,

It feels surreal. Somehow all at once I lost my best friend, my partner, and the most important person in my life. My roots to this country are gone. Our future plans together, our daily routines, and our shared joy didn’t make it into the New Year. How much can a person lose all at once before it breaks them? It feels like I’m walking that line.

It feels like we’ve been apart for so much longer than we have. We were each other’s everyday. Maybe it just takes getting used to. I guess that’s hard to do because I don’t want to accept this as a norm. I miss you. I miss you when creepy fucking people harass me or unwantedly approach me. I miss you when my clumsiness takes over and I embarrass myself. I miss you when Marvel or DC comes out with a new movie. I miss you when I see a Buzzfeed Tasty video that requires an oven. I miss you when I have a nightmare or sleep paralysis. I miss you when I crave dumplings. I miss you so much.

It feels like I’ll never move on. But I know that that’s not true. That’s just how I feel right now. Gradually I will move on from this; we both will. But I do think that I will always love you. As cliché as it sounds, that’s a blessing and a curse I’ll have to live with. What a blessing for me to have learned so much about love, relationships, being an adult, having roots, creating a home, and so much more. But a curse, because this love will forever remind me of what was, what didn’t work, and possibly shroud my future loves.

That’s why I’ve decided to write this letter to you. I want you to know that our time together, what we created, what we had, what we lost, were not a waste. And they most certainly were not a curse. It only seems that way now because I’m hurt, angry, sad, and lost all at once.

I want you to know that, as painful as it will be, I will look back on our time, especially the last handful of months, and search for your efforts in trying to keep us together, of you doing everything you can for our love, and of you remembering that what we have – what we had – can’t be taken for granted. I will look for all of it. One of the reasons we didn’t work out is because I couldn’t see the amount of effort you put into trying to save us. You’ve told me before that you don’t believe I will ever be able to see how much you tried for me, and I know I’ve told you that I probably won’t, but I’ve changed my mind. I’m coming from a healthier mindset, I was wrong to say that, and I am not going to give up until I see it all. I am so sorry that I couldn’t see it. I am even more sorry that I gave up and didn’t even try to see it. But I want to see it all, clearly. I need to see it because I owe that much to you, for doing those things, and to me, so I can look back at it and see how lucky I was to have someone like you. I want to remember you making our happy times last and cutting our sad ones short. I want to remember you wholeheartedly as a blessing.

I will also work on forgiveness. Another reason we didn’t work out was because of some of the things you said and did that broke my heart. But I will try to remember that you always came from a place of love and care. Misguided as they were at times and how much those mistakes hurt me, I will work on forgiving you. It is unfair for me to hold grudges against you for things you never meant to do or say. It is hypocritical and unhealthy for me to hold such old woes in my heart. I want to let go of those things. I want to remember you for the good-hearted person I fell in love with.

Finally, then I will forgive myself. I need to. I will forgive myself for all of the ways I contributed to our break up. I will forgive myself for not seeing you trying day in and day out. I will forgive myself for losing a special soul like you. This is for me. I have to be kind to myself. I made mistakes and I regret them deeply but I cannot punish myself forever. This step will only come after the first two and it likely will be the hardest. I cannot forgive myself fully until I clearly see what I have done wrong. But I don’t want you to think I am just letting myself off the hook. I am truly so sorry I hurt you and wronged you. You did not deserve it. I am so sorry.

I don’t write this all in hopes for us to someday rekindle what we had, though a small, vulnerable part of me may feel that way right now. I write this because my feelings needed to be expressed. I write this to hold myself accountable of the promises I’ve made you. I write this to map out what I need to move on: to look back and remember your efforts, to forgive you, and to forgive myself. I write this so that someday when I re-read this letter, I can remember that we did the best we could for each other, we did what we needed to do by separating, and we did what we could do thereafter, on our own. I write this to see how much I’ve grown.

I wish nothing but the absolute best for you. I cannot thank you enough for blessing my life for the years I was lucky enough to spend with you. Thank you.

Sincerely,

A Letter Per Person

Dear No-Voters,

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Image by A Letter Per Person. Image Description: The shape of Australia filled with rainbow colours and surrounded by the words, “Love is love”

Dear No-Voters (SSM),

Listen, first of all, thank you for reading this. You know, a lot of people who are stuck in their opinions tend to be extremely against reading the other side’s arguments so I really commend and appreciate you for taking the time to read this post. It shows you’re willing to listen and are a little more open-minded than those who share your opinion.

If you’re a yes-voter, well, welcome. Hopefully you agree with what I say, and if you do, please like and share so we get the results this country so desperately needs.

I’ll go back to addressing the No-Voters since that’s whom this letter is dedicated to. I don’t know why you’re against same-sex marriage but put quite bluntly, I honestly don’t need to know for me to tell you it’s not a good enough reason. I hope that my brutal honesty hasn’t made you close this tab. I’ll tell you why your reason, whatever it may be, isn’t good enough to vote no.

Religion

Written with help from my Christian, Muslim, and Jewish friends

Let me begin by making clear that it does not matter to me what religion you practice. Whoever you seek help from, pray to, and worship is none of my business. Whichever religious text you abide by is none of my business. Wherever house of worship you visit is none of my business.

With that said, your religion, your god, your holy text, and your leader at your house of worship may be against same-sex marriage but that does not give you a pass to enforce that belief onto others. I understand that many religious followers believe you are doing God’s work by spreading their ideologies, leading you to think religion is a justifiable reason to vote no. But I need you to understand that what you’re actually doing is not God’s work but in fact, playing God. You are playing God by dictating who can love whom, who can be married to whom, who can live their life the way they want, what is wrong and what is right. These are things that only God, in any given religion, has the power, authority and right to do. It does not matter what your God believes or deems is right because only He/God can dictate and impose that belief onto people.

You might disagree with me but you would be wrong because by voting no to same-sex marriage and citing your God as the reason, you are literally restricting people from expressing themselves, preventing them from living their lives, and condemning them for being who they are. But you, in any religion, do not have the right to do that. Only God does. And regardless of what religion you practice, playing God is a sin. It is extremely disrespectful and offensive. It is wrong and put childishly, you’re going to hell or whatever hell-equivalent you believe in.

Now the question is: is it okay to be and vote against same-sex marriage as long as I don’t push that belief onto others?

I can’t force you to vote yes because ultimately that’s up to you. But I will say that by contributing to a choice that condemns people from living their fullest lives and loving whom they want to love, you are still contributing to a group that is playing God. So in the end, you are still using God as an excuse.

Religion is not an excuse to deny all forms of love and life. Your God and religious text are not free passes to control other people’s lives or dictate what is right or wrong. Believing that is devastatingly demeaning and disrespectful to the religion and God you praise.

A Gay Person Was Mean To You

Why is them being gay the only detail you pick on?

Think about how many straight people you’ve met. How many Caucasians do you know? How many men are currently in your life? Women? How many people with black hair do you know? How about tall people? Are there any football fans in your life? Were all these people nice to you?

If someone with any of the attributes I just listed was mean to you, would you be against them and their entire way of life? If your Caucasian friend cancelled on your plans without an explanation or an apology, would you be against all white-people? If a black haired girl who was a fan of football didn’t help you out with something, would you be against everyone with black hair, all women, and anyone who liked football?

I’m going to assume you said no. (If you answered yes, you’re racist, sexist, and just a very hateful person and I encourage some serious self-reflection. Also, you must be very lonely.). So I return to the main issue, if a gay person was mean to you, why is them being gay the only detail you pick on? Was it a man? Then why are you not against all men? Were they tall? Then why aren’t you advocating for shorter doors? Was that person wearing Nike? Then why aren’t you boycotting Nike?

Really take a moment to think about it. Why do you attribute their rudeness, their mean action, to them being gay? Why are you so certain that their sexual preference led them to be rude that you want to punish them by denying their rights?

If you can’t think of a legitimate reason (hint: there aren’t any), you’re just looking to hate. You’re just projecting your hateful nature onto them being gay. So stop. And seriously, if try to argue that no straight person has ever been mean to you, you’re lying. Stop looking for reasons to hate.

Being Gay Is Unnatural

Who are you to say what’s natural and what isn’t? If you think just because there are more straight people than gay people that the former is natural and latter not, you’re very wrong. With this “majority goes” attitude, it would mean being a woman, being blonde, having blue eyes, and living outside of Asia are all unnatural.

Majority does not, has never, and will never mean natural. Majority changes depending on how you group whatever you’re measuring. So if you think you’re not in the minority of some sort of classification, you’re severely mistaken. Furthermore, homosexuality isn’t something you can accurately measure. A person can identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, asexual, and a member of the LGBTQ+ community without coming out and blatantly saying so. Just like a person can be straight without saying, “Hey all, I’m straight.” Plus, a lot of people in the LGBTQ+ community, can’t or are afraid to come out so aren’t included in these inaccurate measurements despite their very certain and important existence.

Also, to put into quick and simple terms, albinism is a rare, minority trait (as far as it’s been measured, and it’s a more accurately measurable trait than homosexuality) in all living things yet any time an albino animal is discovered they’re often seen as adorable, a novelty, and are loved instantaneously. What’s up with that?

I Don’t Want Kids To Be Raised Gay

Straight parents, did your son turn out to be a daughter because he had a mom? Did your daughter turn out to be a son because she had a dad?

Does your sweet baby-girl hate monkeys because she was raised watching The Powerpuff Girls beating up Mojojo every week? Does your strong boy turn into a robot every so often because he grew up watching The Transformers?

Maybe you don’t have kids:

Did you, as a woman, ever wear pants as a kid and see your dad wearing pants too and decide to go after woman just like him? As a man, when you were a kid did see your dad shaking hands with other men as a kid and then go around shaking every boy’s hand because you just couldn’t resist the urge?

Did you, growing up with straight parents, ever get confused as to whether you were supposed to be a woman like your mom or a man like your dad because regardless of your or their gender, they were both human?

Gay people don’t make others gay. Straight people don’t make others straight either. There are plenty of straight parents with gay children, so you can’t argue that those kids were raised one way or another. Gay people might help those who aren’t sure of their identity become surer of it, but they did not determine whatever conclusion they came to. To simplify (to an extreme), it’s kind of like how tall people don’t magically shrink because they hang out with shorter people but often times become aware of how tall they are (but the shorter people did not make them tall).

If you made it this far, thank you. I know how hard it can be to read arguments you don’t agree with so I really respect and appreciate you for taking time to do just that. I hope that maybe I was able to make you reflect on your reasons against same-sex marriage and hopefully, change your mind. If I didn’t address your reasons here, leave it in the comments and I’ll respond with why it’s not a good enough reason to vote no. At the end of the day, voting no, regardless of the reason, is an act that denies another human being’s rights. That is not okay, it never has been and it never will be. I love and stand with the LGBTQ+ community and will always fight for their rights. I hope you will too.

Sincerely,

A Letter Per Person

Dear Hometown Homies,

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Image by A Letter Per Person. Image Description: A card with pink flowers that reads, “You’re invited to any and all events I might have. You better be there. Thank you for sticking around” is placed on top of scenic postcards next to a succulent on a wooden desk.

Dear Hometown Homies,

Oh, how awkward. I feel a little embarrassed writing something so sentimental but I know you guy need to hear this. You probably know already, friendship can be such a strong, unspoken bond, but I really love you guys. I don’t know what I’d do if I had never met any of you or if we stopped being in each other’s lives.

Seriously, you guys basically raised me. We went through the happy-go-lucky elementary phase to the awkward teenage phase when MSN was life to the best high school years anyone could’ve asked for. Some of you guys moved away and we lost touch but we all somehow found our way back to each other. Even now that we’re continents away for jobs, college, and overall adulthood, our friendship never fails even if we don’t keep in touch and when we go back home it’s like the years apart never happened. We always meet each other halfway, no matter what.

I wouldn’t be who I am today if it weren’t for you guys; and I really, really like me. I owe you all so much for that. Each and every one of you has influenced me in your own individual ways. Whether we bonded at the kindergarten milk-breaks or high school house parties, the flood-resistant fields or IB cram classes, Skype calls or sleepovers, you guys are the place I call home. I could never ask for a better group of people to be in my life because I know y’all are as good as it gets. Let me tell you now, I’ve met a lot of people in my lifetime and befriended many but I have never met a crazier, more comfortable, and loyal bunch like you guys. You guys are the ones I’d pick to jam out to old school hits, the ones for crazy adventures, and definitely the ones to reunite with year after year if we aren’t already living right next door. Hand to heart, y’all are irreplaceable.

I hope you know all of you have an open invitation for whatever event I might have in my life. And I’m always here for you, even if we don’t talk as much, even if we’ve met other people, and even we spend more time and space apart. We’ll grow old together and talk about how far we’ve come. No matter what, you guys are my family. I love you guys so much. Homies? HOMIES!

Sincerely,

A Letter Per Person

Dear You,

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Image from PexelsImage Description: A hammock is placed in the corner of a wooden home with three chairs next to it by the walls with four windows looking out to a natural scene of trees.

Dear You,

I don’t know where to begin. You know I’m terrible at communication. Even after all those times I promised that I’ll keep trying, somehow my bottle ends up full. But I know I have to write this letter. I know because I love you.

I’m sorry for those times I yelled at you because you forgot to wake me up, even though I know you were savouring those rare fifteen minutes that I cuddle up to you. Thank you for loving me enough to want to cuddle me despite my yelling.

I’m sorry for when I start a fight because you’re being playful and I happen to be in a bad mood, even though I’m playful whenever the hell I please. Thank you for playing along even when you don’t feel like it.

I’m sorry for making you feel guilty over the smallest, irrelevant things, even though we both know it’s more my fault than yours. Thank you for being patient and waiting for me to come around to apologise.

I’m sorry for when I scold you about how unhealthy or unhygienic you’re being, even though I sometimes give up health because I’m too lazy or tired. Thank you for always bringing me my toothbrush with extra minty toothpaste when I’m exhausted, because you know if you don’t I won’t brush.

I’m sorry for not telling you I love you or that I miss you enough, even though you always do. Thank you for being you.

I’ve known I’ve had to write this letter for a long time and I’ve always known what to say. But it took me a while to start because the truth is, I could’ve written to my best friend, my partner in crime, my significant other, and my favourite, and it would’ve still ended up with you.

Sincerely,

A Letter Per Person

Dear Muslim Friends

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Image from QuotesGram. Image Description: A quote that says “As with all human rights violations, breaking the silence is the first step. by Jessica Neuwirth” is written on a white background. 

Dear Muslim Friends,

I am so sorry for the state that our world is in. I am speaking particularly about the Muslim ban Donald Trump has signed but this is for all of you all around the world.

I really truly am sorry at how little society has changed. I am so sorry that you and so many other minority groups have to pay for this lack of growth. I genuinely am sorry.

But I am also extremely angry. I had initially written “and angry” after every time I apologized in this letter. The only reason I deleted them was because it was far more important for me that you knew I am first hurting with you. My sorrow is a reaction to what you are facing but my anger is my response. My anger fuels my action to help you.

I am not a Muslim and I will not pretend to know what you are going through. As a non-Muslim, I can only offer you my love, support, and solidarity:

  • Know you can talk to me

The best way is by direct messaging me on Twitter. I am not a professional but I am both a stranger and a friend. I can’t and won’t judge you because I don’t know you. I can and will listen because I am your friend.

  • (Re)Educate me

If I ever say anything wrong, tweet something insensitive, misunderstood anything, please let me know. I am trying to educate myself but with that often comes all sorts of misinterpretations. So please, know that I am trying and I mean no hate. You pointing these things out will help me.

  • Tell me how to do more

I am always looking for how I can do more. You are the people who know best about Islamophobia, being a minority, and victims of hate crime so you are the people who we need to listen to to understand and empathize and call for change. And so while I do my own part to understand, I would also love to know your thoughts on what we can do to stand with you, how we can stand with you, and how you want us to stand with you.

Please know you are loved. Despite bigoted “leaders” and negative media, there are people out there who love you. Don’t change your beliefs, values, and identity for those who are too close-minded to embrace the beautifully wide spectrum of humanity. You are important. You are seen. You are loved.

Sincerely,

A Letter Per Person