It all began with a touch of mailbox envy. Eyeing the handwritten letters his roommate seemed to receive on a daily basis, Travis White decided everyone should have that feeling that always accompanies receiving a letter. So he started A Letter for Better, a group of students that randomly chooses names and addresses from the White Pages and sends the unknowing recipients a handwritten letter. The organization now has 45 active members — up from just four when it began. Below, the Central Michigan University student talks to us about pens, Steve Jobs and an unexpected visit from a police officer.
Travis White (right) with ALFB Vice President, Ashley Coners
When did your interest in the epistolary world begin?
It began in my first year of college. I lived (and currently live) in the residence halls at Central Michigan University where we have mailboxes for each one of our rooms. My roommate that I lived with had a girlfriend at the time who attended an institution in Ohio. One of their major forms of communication was through letter writing, and it seemed to me like he received a letter almost every day. Since I was the one who passed the mailbox on a regular basis, I would be the one to pick up all of the mail. A couple months went by that I would open the mailbox, seeing only a letter that would be addressed to him, never seeing the words “Travis White” printed in the handwriting of someone close to me.
One day in late October/early November, we went to lunch in one of the residence halls on campus, when he received an email that was sent directly to his phone. It was from one of the front desk workers notifying him that he had a package waiting for him at the front desk of our residence hall. Being the great friend that he was and knowing that I did not receive any mail before then, he teased me about it.
Jokingly, I told him, “You know what I’m going to do? I’m going to go onto Whitepages.com, find a random address and become pen-pals with them.” It wasn’t until a couple days later that I finally received my first letter in the mail and, surprisingly, it was from my Marching Band back home. I was the Drum Major during my Junior and Senior year of High School, and my entire band wrote to tell me how much they miss me and wished that I would come back to play with them for their Homecoming.
The feeling that that letter gave me was something that I have never experienced before, so I decided to take that and turn it into an student organization. We turned my “joke” into a reality, where we literally go onto Whitepages and find random strangers to write to, simply to make them smile.