Lines filled with college students and community members eager to meet the man who knows the secrets of over half a million strangers extended out the doors of the Busch Student Center on Monday, Jan. 26. The Saint Louis University student organization Active Minds teamed up with the Student Activities Board to bring the creator of PostSecret, Frank Warren, to campus.
What originally started as a crazy idea, even a “diabolical” idea, as his mother called it, Warren went to Washington D.C. a few years ago holding 3,000 postcards with his address and asked total strangers to tell him their secrets. That first week, he got a 100 hits on his website, 1,000 the following week and 1 million the next. To date, he receives over half a million hits per week and the number continues to grow.
The idea for the PostSecret project stemmed from Warren’s own struggle with the secrets in his life and has now spread across the world, impacting many lives along the way.
In the beginning, he found the most common response to his inquiring of secrets to be “I don’t have any.”
Warren doesn’t buy it.
“There are two kinds of secrets,” he said. “The kind we keep from others and the kind we keep from ourselves.”
He told the audience the No. 1 secret he now reads is, “I pee in the shower.”
Intertwining humor with sincerity and seriousness, Warren discussed how, “secrets become bridges” when we share them. He told the story of a postcard he received that had two holes in it. It read, “These holes are from when my mom tried knocking down my door so she could continue beating me.”
Within the next couple of days, over two dozen postcards just like that one found their way to his door. Then, he received an e-mail from a young girl who said, “Seeing all these picture of broken bedroom doors, it doesn’t depress me because now I know I’m not the only one.”
As a man whose childhood was characterized by divorced parents, watching a friend fall to his death, dealing with homelessness and mental health problems, Warren has strong ties to suicide prevention, hope organizations, mental health organizations groups. Through PostSecret, Warren wants people to know that they are not alone.
“Someone else has felt the same pain in your bones [that you feel],” Warren said.
He provided students with the alarming and increasing statistics of those who think about suicide, have a plan to commit suicide or have actually committed suicide. He offered tips on how to reduce those numbers.
“Never be afraid to share your story. Never be afraid to listen,” Warren said.
Warren gave SLU students the chance to share their own secrets in front of the audience.
Audience members elected to share their stories and offer support and words of encouragement to other students who were in attendance at the event. Some spoke about the accepting environment they have found through Warren’s project.
“I hope students will be able to see each other in a different light as a result of the PostSecret event,” Sam Peterson, vice president of the Student Activities Board, one of the groups that sponsered Warren’s visit to SLU, said.
Peterson wanted the event to allow students to learn new things about each other, whether that person was a complete stranger or a best friend.
The PostSecret creator views the word “secret” in the context of its Hebrew meaning, which means “to come closer.” Through the revelations of Warren and students themselves, the SLU community did just that.
Before the book signing that followed his presentation, Warren left the audience with the message of his favorite secret ever received: a secret sent and written on a dollar bill. It said, “We’re all part of something bigger and we’re all part of it together.”