1. A mother writes to her son after he came out on Facebook.
2. A little girl offers her services to a homeless shelter.
3. J.K. Rowling’s response to a teenage fan whose drug-addicted parents had both been murdered.
16-year-old Sacia Flowers wrote to the author about her love of the Harry Potter series, loneliness, and her experience of being bullied at school. The transcript of Rowling’s response:
Dear Sacia (beautiful name, I’ve never heard it before),
Thank you for your incredible letter; incredible, because you do indeed sound phenomenally like Harry Potter, in your physical resemblance and in your life experience. I cannot tell you how moved I was by what you wrote, nor how sorry I am to hear about your parents. What a terrible loss.
I know what it is like to be picked on, as it happened to me, too, throughout my adolescence. I can only wish that you have the same experience that I did, and become happier and more secure the older you get. Being a teenager can be completely horrible, and many of the most successful people I know felt the same way. I think the problem is that adolescence, though often misrepresented as a time of rebellion and unconventionality, actually requires everybody to conform if they aspire to popularity – or at least to ‘rebel’ while wearing the ‘right’ clothes! You’re now standing on the threshold of a very different phase in your life, one where you are much more likely to find kindred spirits, and much less likely to be subject to the pressures of your teenage years.
It is an honour to me to know that somebody like you loves Harry as much as you do. Thank you very much for writing to me, I will treasure your letter (which entitles you to boast about this response as much as you like!)
With lots of love
(Jo to you!)
4. A tragic love letter from one World War II soldier to another.
5. A doctor reaches out to the husband of a patient whose life he was not able to save.
6. This exchange between an eight-year-old girl and John F. Kennedy.
Dear Mr. Kennedy,
Please stop the Russians from bombing the North Pole because they will kill Santa Claus. I am 8 years old. I am in the third grade at Holy Cross School.
THE WHITE HOUSE
October 28, 1961
I was glad to get your letter about trying to stop the Russians from bombing the North Pole and risking the life of Santa Claus.
I share your concern about the atmospheric testing of the Soviet Union, not only for the North Pole but for countries throughout the world; not only for Santa Claus but for people throughout the world.
However, you must not worry about Santa Claus. I talked with him yesterday and he is fine. He will be making his rounds again this Christmas.
(Signed, ‘John Kennedy’).
7. A student comes out to his teacher in an essay on the subject of, “A weight that I carry daily.”
The teacher’s response: “I am honoured to be a witness to this weight being lifted off. You are an amazing, dynamic, compassionate, “with-it” young man who will give the world a gift just by you being you offering your love & spirit. If people choose not to be comfortable with your honesty — their loss my friend — their loss.”
8. Alex Turner’s Valentine’s Day love note to Alexa Chung.
9. Roald Dahl thanks a seven-year-old girl who sent him one of her dreams in a bottle.
The “dream” took the form of a combination of oil, coloured water and glitter. Dahl’s reply will make sense to anyone who read The BFG as a kid.
10. Caitlin Moran’s posthumous advice for her daughter, in The Times.
“Dear Lizzie. Hello, it’s Mummy. I’m dead. Sorry about that. I hope the funeral was good – did Daddy play Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen when my coffin went into the cremator? I hope everyone sang along and did air guitar, as I stipulated. And wore the stick-on Freddie Mercury moustaches, as I ordered in the ‘My Funeral Plan’ document that’s been pinned on the fridge since 2008, when I had that extremely self-pitying cold.
“Look – here are a couple of things I’ve learnt on the way that you might find useful in the coming years. It’s not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good start. Also, I’ve left you loads of life-insurance money – so go hog wild on eBay on those second-hand vintage dresses you like. You have always looked beautiful in them. You have always looked beautiful.
“The main thing is just to try to be nice. You already are – so lovely I burst, darling – and so I want you to hang on to that and never let it go. Keep slowly turning it up, like a dimmer switch, whenever you can. Just resolve to shine, constantly and steadily, like a warm lamp in the corner, and people will want to move towards you in order to feel happy, and to read things more clearly. You will be bright and constant in a world of dark and flux, and this will save you the anxiety of other, ultimately less satisfying things like ‘being cool’, ‘being more successful than everyone else’ and ‘being very thin’.
“Second, always remember that, nine times out of ten, you probably aren’t having a full-on nervous breakdown – you just need a cup of tea and a biscuit. You’d be amazed how easily and repeatedly you can confuse the two. Get a big biscuit tin.
“Three – always pick up worms off the pavement and put them on the grass. They’re having a bad day, and they’re good for… the earth or something (ask Daddy more about this; am a bit sketchy).
“Four: choose your friends because you feel most like yourself around them, because the jokes are easy and you feel like you’re in your best outfit when you’re with them, even though you’re just in a T-shirt. Never love someone whom you think you need to mend – or who makes you feel like you should be mended. There are boys out there who look for shining girls; they will stand next to you and say quiet things in your ear that only you can hear and that will slowly drain the joy out of your heart. The books about vampires are true, baby. Drive a stake through their hearts and run away.
“Stay at peace with your body. While it’s healthy, never think of it as a problem or a failure. Pat your legs occasionally and thank them for being able to run. Put your hands on your belly and enjoy how soft and warm you are – marvel over the world turning over within, the brilliant meat clockwork, as I did when you were inside me and I dreamt of you every night.
“Whenever you can’t think of something to say in a conversation, ask people questions instead. Even if you’re next to a man who collects pre-Seventies screws and bolts, you will probably never have another opportunity to find out so much about pre-Seventies screws and bolts, and you never know when it will be useful.
“This segues into the next tip: life divides into AMAZING ENJOYABLE TIMES and APPALLING EXPERIENCES THAT WILL MAKE FUTURE AMAZING ANECDOTES. However awful, you can get through any experience if you imagine yourself, in the future, telling your friends about it as they scream, with increasing disbelief, ‘NO! NO!’ Even when Jesus was on the cross, I bet He was thinking, ‘When I rise in three days, the disciples aren’t going to believe this when I tell them about it.’
“Babyiest, see as many sunrises and sunsets as you can. Run across roads to smell fat roses. Always believe you can change the world – even if it’s only a tiny bit, because every tiny bit needed someone who changed it. Think of yourself as a silver rocket – use loud music as your fuel; books like maps and co-ordinates for how to get there. Host extravagantly, love constantly, dance in comfortable shoes, talk to Daddy and Nancy about me every day and never, ever start smoking. It’s like buying a fun baby dragon that will grow and eventually burn down your f***ing house.
11. A child tries to strike a deal with the tooth fairy.
12. A husband’s impossibly romantic gesture from beyond the grave.
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