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Teacher Mails Students Letters From 20 Years Ago

Teacher mails letters to students 20 years later in new WestJet ad

It's that time of year again — time for the marketing geniuses at WestJet to dream up another tearjerker ad just in time for the holidays. You know, one that leaves us with all kinds of warm and fuzzies inside.

Earlier this year, they shared the story of Marc Grimard, a dad who'd been separated from his cancer-ridden son while the boy sought treatment in the U.S. The airline surprised both by getting the dad a week off from work so he could be with his son. And the year before that, the Canadian airline surprised airline passengers with Christmas gifts straight from their wish lists upon their arrival.

But this Christmas, WestJet has unveiled a new series called "Above & Beyond Stories," in which they highlight one do-gooder's deeds in every clip, as a means to inspire us all. In one of our favorites, just now going viral, the airline follows the story of high school teacher Bruce Farrer, and the amazing promise he's kept to all of his students for decades.

Over 20 years ago, Farrer dreamt up an assignment for his students that he thought would be "different, interesting and one that they would value," he says. So he had his students sit down and write a letter to themselves. But not just any letter — it had to be a long one; 10 pages long, in fact. In it, the teens could say anything they wanted about their life right now or their hopes and dreams, but they would only see their letter again 20 years in the future, when he mailed them back to their adult selves.

This, of course, has been a lot of work over the years for Farrer. Considering the hundreds of students he's taught, and the hundreds of letters that have been written, the simple "assignment" has led to years of meticulous cataloging, and also a considerable amount of searching, as his students have strayed farther and farther away from "home."

"For me, there's a lot of detective work," he admits. "The kids are going every which way."

But all this tracking down and hunting for students years later doesn't frustrate the lovable teach — instead, he says, "this excites me."

He also realizes now, more than ever, just how powerful a letter can be — from anyone, really — now that we've entered the digital age, where the written word

"Many generations ago, when letters were carefully written, this was the only way that we could have that person in our home," he explains. "The letter almost represents part of that person who is sending it. Because as we open that letter, there was that person ... there."

Watch as Farrer explains why he dedicates himself to carrying out the promise, and also how some of his students react to reading the words of their teenage selves, who talk about everything from their current sadnesses, like mourning the loss of a grandparent, to their thoughts of the future, like one kid who speaks of the "computerized world" we'll be living in one day.

As one former student says, reading his letter was like getting "this gift of somebody that I'd forgotten years ago."

Photo via WestJet

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