By Jasmine Kazlauskas
A grandmother who felt lonely during isolation has been inundated with over 600 letters from kind strangers after her daughter made a heartfelt plea online.
Barbara Murray, 85, used to love the social scene at her retirement home and filled her days by seeing friends at her local café, attending exercise classes, joining group activities and going on excursions with the other residents.
But due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, this all changed – suddenly, the grandmother-of-four from Canberra, Australia, could no longer see her friends because group meet-ups were banned, cafes were closed and exercises classes cancelled.
The only activity Barbara could do each day was walk to her letterbox, but sadly, she was not receiving much mail – so her loving daughter Trish Murray, 50, came up with an incredible plan to help bring some joy into her mother’s life.
Mum-of-two Trish, who lives in Sydney which is a 3.5hr drive from her mum in Canberra, decided to introduce Barbara’s story online to see if anyone was interested in writing her a letter – and she was inundated with hundreds of requests from people eager to help out.
Amazingly, Barbara has since received over 600 heartfelt cards, letters and parcels from kind strangers around the world, which Trish said has lifted her spirits greatly and has made her feel less alone during isolation.
Personal stylist and brand coach Trish said: “Mum only moved into a lovely retirement village one year ago. She lost her driver’s license and so she lost her independence.
“It is walking distance from her friends, a community hall and a popular cafe. She enjoyed going for outings and joining gentle exercise classes.
“But when the pandemic began, everything shut down. Everyone was told to stay inside all the time.
“Obviously older people were most at risk so it had to be done, but it was so hard on her.
“Mum’s getting to an age where routine is important, so without that stimulation and regular daily activities, it was really affecting her.
“Luckily she still has a daily visit from her carer. But if that stopped, I knew I’d need to come and be with her.
“All the borders closed up and the flights were grounded, so moving to be with her would have been incredibly difficult.
“She had nothing to do and no one to see. The only thing she did have was to go outside and check her letterbox.
“I’d call her every day and encourage her to go check, but she would always say ‘well there’s nothing much in there so there is no need’.
“Then it just clicked. What if there were more letters in her mailbox for her to collect?
“That’s when I got the idea to post for help online. It was a very simple call to action to help my mum.”
Trish introduced her mother and explained her current situation on a public Facebook group, where she then asked anyone who might enjoy writing Barbara a letter to privately message her for the address.
The mum said her inbox was flooded with messages from people around the world wanting to help – but Trish said she had no idea just how successful her plea would be.
A week later, Barbara’s mailbox began filling up with hundreds of letters, cards and parcels from kind strangers wanting to put a smile on her face and spread happiness – and they have kept coming ever since.
Trish said the idea has been wonderful for her mother, as she now has a purpose and wakes up each morning to go for a walk to the mailbox and spends her day reading the letters.
She said: “I had no idea of the interest it would generate. I had so many people messaging me saying how much they’d love to write to mum.
“She doesn’t really understand where the letters have come from. She doesn’t know about Facebook or have access to the internet.
“But she is just so touched by everyone being so kind and thoughtful in the letters. Mum absolutely loves reading them all.
“It really shows how good and kind people can be to a complete stranger. It’s magical.
“People have turned such a horrible time into a positive experience for mum.”
Barbara has two children in two different states, with Trish being in Sydney in New South Wales, and her son Gordon, 55, living in Perth, Western Australia.
She used to work as an air hostess for the now obsolete Trans Australia Airlines (TAA) until she got married to an army officer and had children – but continued to work for charities throughout her life.
Trish said the letters and parcels have been sent from every state in Australia, as well as from the UK, USA, New Zealand and Canada.
Some of Barbara’s gifts included a homemade toy bunny, little felt love hearts, embroidered handkerchiefs, hanging crystals, and even a Mills and Boon romance novel.
Now Trish is sharing her mum’s incredible story to help inspire others to spread happiness and to show how little acts of kindness can bring sunshine to someone else’s life.
She said: “It has really given her a purpose and routine in this uncertain time. I felt really helpless with my vulnerable mum being so isolated, and I couldn’t visit her due to restrictions.
“I felt like I was letting her down, and then all these people stepped up and helped. It is so beautiful.
“Every single person who has written to her is going through their own challenges during this time. But yet, they’ve taken the time to write.
“I’ll never forget the kindness we’ve received from all these strangers and we will find a way to pass it on.
“I’ve always believed humans are inherently loving and kind, and this has proved that to me. I couldn’t be more thankful.”