Our very recent book release, Letters to Doris, tells the stories of 23 people who were recipients of Doris’ individual grantmaking. Below, Alex Buffett Rozek shares his experience reading Letters to Doris and reflecting on his grandmother’s lifelong commitment to improving the lives of those who wrote to her. As Board Chair, Alex has put his faith in the volunteers and staff of the Letters Foundation to carry out Doris’ mission, and ensure that every letter is read and responded to with dignity and respect. Looking back on over ten years of Doris’ giving, Alex shares an honest and intimate reflection of his grandmother’s legacy:
I cannot remember the last time I cried reading a book, but the waterworks were flowing reading Letters to Doris.
The amazing thing about the book is that it tells more about my grandmother and what she is all about, without actually being about her.
The 23 stories are heartbreaking, hopeful, and beautiful, all at the same time. They are the real deal…not abstract, wide-reaching theories on how things ought to be, but just how things are. These are 23 stories about that razor thin line between “making it to the next day” and “total despair” that too many people walk; 23 stories of how, through no fault of their own, these people fell across that line.
This book is also about how a simple act of listening and kindness can make a difference. My grandmother has always known she is incredibly lucky to have the means to help others, and these are actual stories of how she—and the amazing people who shared her passion and worked tirelessly with her—helped provide a hand up to people in real need.
So many things struck me. In most cases, help from the Letters Foundation was just a part of the journey. Also, in each of the stories, the ending is genuinely hopeful. It’s inspirational to see the positive human spirit that flows from people who have every reason in the world to be negative, spiteful, or angry. Instead, they are the exact opposite: thankful, resilient, and full of hope. Reading this book for me was like experiencing 23 individual opportunities to recalibrate the soul… to remember what’s important and, most of all, to experience the joy of the human spirit and the connection we all have to each other.
For me, my grandmother is that human grounding wire, and I am so privileged to have a front seat to watch how she has chosen to make a difference in this world. Maybe, in some way, this book will inspire people to appreciate the little things they can do to help others get back up when they fall down.
I hope that my four month old daughter will have the opportunity to know her great-grandmother on a personal basis, and have the time with her to appreciate her the way I do. But if that doesn’t happen, and one day she asks me about Dodo… I will give her this book to let her know what kind of person her great-grandmother was to me and to thousands of others.
Alex Buffett Rozek is Doris Buffett’s grandson and the Board Chair of the Letters Foundation and Learning by Giving Foundation.