On Father’s Day of 2012, Frank Warren was sent a homemade post card from a man whose wife had just left him after 27 years.
“This Sunday, Father’s Day, will be my last. Sorry Kids,” the card read.
A year later, Warren received an email from the man’s children saying they recognized their father’s post card and after speaking with him, he is happier than he’s been in a while.
Along with the email came a new card. This one read:
“There were dark times after my divorce. I had even picked the date, but little things here and there pulled me back from the brink. Time and family helped ease the pain and allowed me to see that there was more of life to live.”
As the founder and curator of the art project blog “PostSecret,” Warren receives more than a thousand post cards a day from strangers all around the world.
Today at 8 p.m. in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom, Warren will speak to students about what it’s like to be “the most trusted stranger in America.”
“I’ll be sharing some of the stories behind the secrets: some that are funny, inspiring, funny, painful and hopeful,” Warren said. “I’ll be showing images of post cards that were banned by the book’s publisher. I have a couple secrets to share from my own life as well as asking audience members to share secrets from their life, if they choose to do that. There will be music, video, photos, all that.”
Since creating the blog in 2004, Warren has received more than 500,000 hand-made post cards all written by people looking to share some of their deepest secrets.
“There were probably many things that led me to starting PostSecret, such as a boring job, insomnia and probably, in some ways, wanting to share secrets of my own and just creating a space for others where I could join in too,” Warren said.
His posts tend to focus on mental health and highlighting painful and burdensome confessions. He recently won a Life Time Achievement award for his efforts in suicide prevention.
While many post cards deal with heavy issues including break-ups, suicides and even possible murders, many of the cards can be funny or inspiring.
On Sept. 1, as part of his “Sunday Secrets” posts, Warren shared a post card from a college student that had a cutout of his campus map and writing that read, “I walk across campus so that I can poop in the nice dorm with the nice bathrooms.”
In 2009, Warren published his fifth book in his series written about PostSecret entitled “Confessions on Life, Death, & God.” The book debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list.
Hailed as the “most trusted stranger in America” Warren said the eight-year journey has taught him a lot about others, but also a little about himself.
“It’s increased my capacity for empathy, I think, and understanding and ultimately has allowed me to see secrets as being walls or bridges depending on our actions,” Warren said. “I’ve learned about who we trust with our secrets, who we share our true selves with. Sometimes, the toughest person to share a secret with is not somebody else, but ourselves.”
Warren said he continues to update the blog and write his books, because he believes allowing people to share their secrets goes a long way in the healing process.
“For me, inspiring secrets and painful secrets are important for me to share. By sharing the post cards from people with heavy burdens, perhaps the load becomes a little lighter,” he said.
The talk is part of the Center for Student Involvement’s University Lecture Series (ULS) and is the third stop on Warren’s PostSecret Live! Tour.
At his talk in Virginia last week, the event sold out, so Warren encourages students to arrive early. Doors to the event open at 7:30 p.m.
Every semester, ULS brings three celebrity speakers to “develop intellectual potential and present interesting and relevant information on a variety of scholastic and community oriented interests.”