15 May, 2016
More than a million people around the world have told Frank Warren their deepest secrets.
People have mailed him confessions, disappointments, and their hopes for the future. They do not tell Warren who they are.
Warren shows his favorite postcards online and in exhibits. And he shares them with people in popular presentations.
"Dear birth mother: I have great parents. I found love. I'm happy."
"I give decaf to customers who are rude to me."
"Everyone who knew me before 9/11 believes I'm dead."
Ten years ago Warren began what he thought would be a small social experiment.
"I wanted to find out if people had secrets and if they did, if they'd share them with me. So I printed up 3,000 self-addressed postcards with my home address on one side and a blank space for them to write down a secret -- something they'd never told anyone before -- and decorate the card with artwork and mail it to my home."
Many people wrote their secrets on the card and mailed them to him.
Warren put some of them on his website and published some of them in books.
Soon, people from Ireland, Japan, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Greenland and Australia were writing their secrets on their own postcards and mailing them to him in different languages.
"Ten years later I've received over a million and they keep coming -- six days a week."
Warren reads -- and keeps -- every single postcard.
"I believed that if I could create a safe, non-judgmental place where people could share these hidden fantasies and fears and hopes, desires, humiliations and funny stories, hidden acts of kindness, it could really be something special."
He calls his project "PostSecret."
More than half a million postcards from the project are shown at the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington. Emily Murgia works at the museum.
"People love this exhibit. We'll come in, and it's just full of people who will stay here for hours even, going postcard to postcard, having these conversations one-on-one. People will smile at some, laugh, we see people crying. They find a piece of themselves inside these secrets."
"I told him my deepest secret, and he still loves me."
"Seems like no matter what continent, no matter what language, the secrets are sharing the same fears, the same hopes, the same desires. And for me it's a privilege that so many people -- hundreds of thousands -- from around the world have trusted me with their deepest and true secrets."
"Jail isn't anything like the movies."
"Inside this envelope is the ripped-up remains of a suicide note I didn't use. I feel like the happiest person on earth now."
This is one of his favorites ...
"When people I love leave voicemails on my phone I always save them in case they die tomorrow, and I have no other way of hearing their voice ever again."
I'm Christopher Jones-Cruise.
VOA Washington Correspondent Julie Taboh reported this story. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted it into Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
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Words in This Story
decaf – n. coffee that does not contain caffeine; decaffeinated coffee
fantasy – n. something that is produced by the imagination
privilege – n. a special opportunity to do something that makes you proud