As Columbia County residents, and those across the state, practice social distancing in hopes of slowing the COVID-19 pandemic, many are searching for ways to find and maintain social connections across physical distance.

Letter Writing Campaign

Dear Stranger is a recurring letter-exchange project that connects Oregonians through the mail to share experiences, beliefs, and ideas.

Dear Stranger, a letter-exchange project from Oregon Humanities, offers a chance for connection by inviting Oregonians to write letters with someone they’ve never met.

Oregon Humanities is a statewide organization that brings people together to talk, listen, and learn from one another.

“The need for human connection feels more urgent than ever,” Oregon Humanities Communications Manager and creator of the Dear Stranger Ben Waterhouse said. “We can’t bring people together in person right now, but we can still provide ways to reach out and be heard.”

The aim of Dear Stranger is to create shared understanding among Oregonians with different backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs. The premise is simple: Write a letter, get a letter, and make a new connection. Oregon Humanities has operated Dear Stranger since 2014, with each round of the project asking writers to address a different question or theme. In 2020, more than 250 people participated, with letters coming from 29 states (and one from Belgium).

This spring’s prompt for writers is about possession: “What is an object, trait, knowledge, or belief you possess that has value to you? How did you determine its value? When did you begin to recognize its value?”

Prompts for writing and instructions for participation are available on the Oregon Humanities website at oregonhumanities.org.

Letters are swapped anonymously, and each person receives a letter from the person who received the one they wrote. What happens next is up to the writers. If they’d like to write back, they can do so through Oregon Humanities.

Letters should be addressed to Oregon Humanities, Attn: Dear Stranger, 921 SW Washington St., Suite 150, Portland, Oregon, 97205. Oregon Humanities will exchange letters mailed by May 31, 2021.

Questions about Dear Stranger should be directed to programs@oregonhumanities.org.

Oregon Humanities connects people and communities through conversation, storytelling, and participatory programs to inspire understanding and collaborative change.

More information about our programs and publications — which include the Conversation Project, Bridging Oregon, Consider This, Humanity in Perspective, Public Program Grants, Responsive Program Grants, and Oregon Humanities magazine — can be found at oregonhumanities.org.

Oregon Humanities is an independent, nonprofit affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities and a partner of the Oregon Cultural Trust.

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