Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes, 51 seconds
Guest Contribution by Victoria Brown
Before the call, I rehearse my introduction, remind myself how many times I should speak, and review my notes in case there are awkward silences.
When I sign off, cheerily waving goodbye to the people who made being interesting feel so effortless, I’m flushed and charged up. This eclectic group draws from people across the country, a range of ages, lives and interests. But a few commonalities bring us together: a desire to meet new people, a love of tea and, more importantly, a belief in the goodness of others.
I founded The Tea Fairy Brigade & Swap (The Brigade, for short) in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic as a way to connect with new people and encourage acts of kindness. It’s grown beyond my wildest dreams and I’ve grown with it.
In August 2020, I asked a tea Facebook group if anyone would be interested in a tea swap. Overwhelmed by responses, I created a quick-and-dirty Google form and sent it out into the world. A week later, more than 60 people had signed up. I quickly researched how to mail merge and the first monthly swap was underway.
As the group grew, I collected new friends and participants and started the volunteer section that sends cards and tea to anyone having a rough time. (If you’d like to nominate someone to receive tea from our volunteers you can do so here.)
At first, I limited it to three volunteers per nominee, concerned that interest in sending “happy mail” would wane. Instead, interest only grew. Now I am soliciting more and more nominees to keep up with the number of volunteers.
In March, we joined forces with Andrea Webb, founder of Happy Turtle Tea, to reward volunteers with free samples for every 10 happy mailings of cards and tea. Andrea’s involvement is yet another example of the generosity of people in the tea world.
Several times now, I’ve had a blue day brightened by an unexpected letter or package from a Brigade friend who sent something “just because.” The flood of warmth from such a surprise fills my heart with joy, and I wish nothing more than to spread that feeling far and wide.
Through the grapevine and the Facebook group, I’ve seen “happy mail” brighten many days. The Facebook group is delightfully wholesome and the thread is full of thank-you posts from members and notes about the way an unexpected package improved their day. After over 6 months of coordinating “happy mail,” we’ve sent over 600 cards and packages. It’s heartening to see everything cascade outwards as people who had been nominated to receive happy mail are now nominating others in turn.
The monthly swaps are another source of surprise and joy. In August, my first swap – themed vacation, to acknowledge and address the cabin fever we were all feeling – arrived in a small but hefty box. Inside, my match had embroidered and sewn a collapsible bucket bag and a beautiful tea wallet for taking tea on the go.
I often joke that The Brigade is full of “disgustingly nice” people. The kind of people you might wonder, “are they for real?” I am here to tell you yes, we are for real, and we are making a positive difference.
The Brigade continues to grow and has reached nearly 500 members. Monthly swaps, nominating people for happy mail, and volunteering as a tea ‘fairy’ are open to everyone. I hope you’ll join us.
Image provided and copyright held by author