Millions of Americans struggle with depression or anxiety at some point in their life– it is a well documented fact. When we were all forced to hunker down at home in March isolated from friends and family, many people experienced these oppressive feelings for the first time. Some people felt a resurgence of them, perhaps with more force or more regularity than ever before. It is in these moments when the smallest gestures of kindness or thoughtfulness go a long way.
For those in Brooklyn who need a pick-me-up, but perhaps don’t know where to find it, they need only travel to the corner of Fourth Street and Prospect Park West.
Since early October professor of Dramatic Literature at New York University, Brandon Woolf, has set up a version of “post-dramatic theater” he titled “The Console–” short for “consolation.” His piece, however, is different from what one might imagine when they imagine performative art. Woolf sits on the corner next to a mailbox with a folding chair, folding table, and a typewriter and composes “Free Letters for Friends Feeling Blue.”
“For one month, I’ll be at the mailbox – with paper and stamps and hand-sanitizer – ready to serve as you’re your medium, your console,” Brandon Woolf says on his website. “Together, if you’d like, we can take a moment to type a note of consolation, a blue-edged missive to a friend you think could use it. Don’t know what you’d like to say. Don’t worry.”
These letters can be to anyone. They can be about anything. The purpose is to lighten one’s load, whether by brightening someone’s day or relaying one’s thoughts onto the page. Woolf does not charge for writing the letter– nor does he charge for the postage. He simply sets up for around two hours and waits for those who wish to unburden.
Sometimes its friends reconnecting. Other times, it’s a little boy connecting with his grandfather, who is in the hospital. Regardless, it is a collaborative process– someone gives a topic, perhaps a few things to say, and Woolf helps them fill in the blanks.
“We’re all grieving for something right now,” Brandon Woolf says. Our situations are all entirely different, but we have all lost something due to the pandemic. Woolf’s letters help lessen the load some may feel due to the “heightened anxiety” brought on by the election and the pandemic.
Decades ago, letters were one of the only ways to communicate with a loved one. These days, we can connect over a push of a button– a fabulous advancement, certainly, but it changes the meaning of writing a letter. A letter shows the recipient that no matter how far apart they may be, they are in the thoughts of the writer. It is a gesture that won’t soon be forgotten.