I wouldn’t have guessed that so many people would notice Melinda’s and my handwriting.
Late last month we spent a day in New York City launching our latest Annual Letter (“Two Superpowers We Wish We Had”), including dozens of interviews and a town-hall meeting with teenagers from around the world. It was our eighth letter, and we wanted it to feel especially personal this year, so we added handwritten notes in the margin. (You won’t see them if you’re reading it on mobile, or if your browser window is too narrow.) Probably half the people I talked to told me those notes made the letter more fun and approachable for them. I’m just glad they were able to read my scribbles!
Although I wrote my section of the letter on energy, I also enjoyed talking with people about Melinda’s section, which is about the huge gap in the amount of unpaid work—cleaning, cooking, etc.—that women and men do. What makes her argument so resonant is that a lot of people can see that gap in their own lives. Either they do most of the chores at home, or they recognize that they don’t do most of the chores. So we would start with what people know from personal experience, and then show how the gap is even bigger for women in poor countries. It was a powerful way to help people in the rich world connect with a problem that’s far more acute in the developing world.
The meeting with students was especially fun. The novelist John Green was a fantastic host. I got to know John when we traveled together in Ethiopia, so I know how thoughtful and committed he is on these issues. The New York Academy of Sciences’ Junior Academy brought in students from around the world. They had fantastic questions, ranging from the future of science to how we can inspire more empathy in the world. Spend a couple hours with this many bright young people and you can’t help but feel inspired. If you’ve got 75 minutes, you can watch the whole thing.
In keeping with the theme of the letter, we encouraged readers to shares their own #SuperpowerForGood. I was impressed by all the great ideas. A surprising number of people including Instagram user wtbane mentioned teleportation. If we could move things around the world at will, it would dramatically reduce our energy use and therefore the amount of greenhouse gases we emit. And it would mean poor farmers, who often don’t have access to roads or trucks, could get their crops to market. So teleportation would be a pretty amazing superpower for good.
Finally, we worked with the group DoSomething.org on a project that I hope will encourage people to take action. The idea is to highlight Everyday Superheroes—people who are doing amazing, unsung work in your community. If you know someone you want to feature, you can go to DoSomething.org to make a card honoring that person’s work and then share it with them and your friends.
It may not sound like a lot. But in my experience, big changes often start with small steps.