Several months ago I got into the habit of writing my 95 year-old grandma hand-written letters and it was awesome. Very quickly we became pen pals and every week or so I would send out a new letter to her and in return I would get one right back. It’s an old school way to do things, but it’s how she was used to doing it (she doesn’t use email) and it was always cool to get something in the mail besides bills and junk pre-approved credit card offers.
My grandma and I did this for a few months or so, but I broke the commitment when Stephanie and I went on our mission trip to the Congo. Fast forward about six months later and even though I would love to start writing more letters to grandma I haven’t found a way to make it happen. Sad, I know, but it’s the truth. It’s something that I’ve thought about doing quite a bit, but I’ve never pulled the trigger on actually sitting down and writing another letter.
The Mailing Ruth Project Idea
But, a couple of weeks ago an idea hit me. If I had liked sending letters back and forth to grandma I bet that the rest of the family would enjoy it, too. Not to mention that if grandma loved getting letters from me I bet that she would be ecstatic to get some from the rest of the 80+ family members that are listed under her on the family tree. This idea of creating a way for the rest of the family to send letters to grandma got my wheels turning and quickly I came up with a way that I thought I could make it happen.
I named the project “Mailing Ruth” (that’s my grandma’s real name that I never call her by) and decided the goal would be to create a way for me and the rest of my family to send grandma something every, single day until the end of the year (without telling her we were doing it — surprise!). If I could help make sure that there would be something new in her mailbox everyday from now until New Years I would be happy and I knew that grandma would be, too. It’s also worth noting that she’s not getting out as much as she used to these days so finding something from her family in her mailbox each day would mean ever more to her.
The Details To Make It Happen
I wanted to keep this project as simple as possible and since I needed all of my family to participate it needed to be quick to join and easy to understand. I decided to set up a spreadsheet in Google Docs that included two columns — 1. Date and 2. Mail Sender. The dates extended until the end of the year (which was about 150 days) and the instructions were simple:
1. Choose 4-5 dates when you can send grandma something in the mail.
2. Add your name next to those days.
3. Mark the days you choose on your calendar and don’t forget to send out something to grandma on those days.
Here’s what the spreadsheet looked like after being filled in by a few family members:
Socializing The Idea And Getting Early Adopters
I added my name to the spreadsheet 5 times and then chatted with my sister to tell her about the idea to see what she thought and to also get her involved. She instantly loved the idea and quickly went and added her names to the list, too. This was an important moment as I had scored my first contributor with little effort which made me hopeful about getting the rest of the family to join in, too.
Next I called my mom and told her about the idea and although she didn’t instantly add her names to the list she seemed to like what I was trying to do and gave me some ideas on how to reach the rest of the family. I sent her an email with some instructions on how to pick her dates and she ended up filling it out within the next 24 hours after I followed up with her a few times to make sure that she knew what she needed to do.
Spreading The Idea To Influencers And Beyond
After my mom added herself to the list and now that I had a few spots filled out it was time to reach out the rest of my family so that they could join in. This meant that I needed to come up with an email that could be forwarded around the rest of my family so they not only understood what I was trying to do with the project, but that also got them all excited enough to join in and participate (and get other family members that I didn’t know how to reach involved, too). I needed the email to be short and sweet, but it also needed to clearly explain what I was trying to do with the Mailing Ruth Project and why they should participate.
Here’s the email I sent:
I wanted to send you a message real quick about a new idea that I’m working on called Mailing Ruth. It’s basically a way for grandma Honnold to get a new letter or card from one of her family members until the end of the calendar year. Of course, it will also be a really cool surprise for her that she’ll enjoy (be sure not to tell grandma anything about this, it’s a family secret!). It’s a pretty simple idea and it actually got kicked off today by Angie (she sent off the first letter to grandma this morning) — all I need now is the rest of the able members of the Honnold family tree to join in the fun, too (this means you, of course).
Here’s what I need you to do:
1. Add your name to the Mailing Ruth list under MAIL SENDER 4-5 times, which you can do over in this spreadsheet: https://spreadsheets.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Avsar8uugozCdGJfdmtpQV (please list yourself individually and not as a couple/family so that we can have as many people involved as possible)
2. Be sure to mark the specific days on your calendar so that you can mail out your letter or card to grandma when you’re supposed to (it’s very important to send them out on time)
3. Send this message to the as many other members of the Honnold family so that they can add their names to the list, too.
4. Send the cards and letters and help give grandma Honnold an awesome surprise!
If you have any questions about this please feel free to email me back at email@example.com or call me.
Thanks for playing along and I can’t wait to hear all about this from grandma – she’s going to love it!
After mailing that out to a few of my more communicative family members (the family influencers, if you will) the spreadsheet started to fill up before my very eyes. Family members of all ages and from all across the nation added their names to the list and picked out the 4-5 days that they were dedicated to sending grandma something in the mail. Of course I had to follow-up with some of the emails to make sure that people were following through with adding themselves to the list, but as the spreadsheet filled out more and more it became more appealing to the rest of the family since they didn’t want to miss out on participating.
Mailing Ruth Project Update
As of now, we’re 10 days from the first date on the spreadsheet (which is when I sent out the first mail to grandma) and we only have 35 spots left to fill out of the original 151. Now that most of the family is involved it’s going to be easy to get a few more so that all of the dates are filled. I know of a few family members who want to join, but who haven’t added their names, so what I’m going to do is make it easy on them by adding their names myself and emailing them the days that they’re responsible for. I’m more than happy to do this and doing the work for the last few people is all part of getting a project like this 100% completed.
I can’t wait to talk to my grandma to see how she’s been and to hear about what’s new. For some reason I feel like she’s going to have some news to share about getting mail from the family. That’s going to be really fun to hear about.