I should first confess that I am not a card-sender, not even in the smallest way. So this is not a blessing that works for everyone — the goal is to explore blessings and discover which are most likely to succeed in your life.
With that said, I have learned that in this world there are, at any given moment, card warriors on active duty across the nation and perhaps the world.
Consistently over a 6-year illness, cards arrived in our mailbox. Among the daily procession of bills and ads, a greeting card would stand out. Card-senders had turned their concern into action, blessing my husband with a kind word, a laugh, a simple reminder that he mattered.
Often cards were from a few particular people whom we dubbed card warriors. We used to joke that these gals ought to own stock in greeting card companies, and at least one has admitted it crossed her mind.
What can I do?
Sending cards is a familiar gesture and can be an easy start for beginners wanting to “do something” for someone who comes to mind. If you are stuck, wondering how you could reach out to your someone, you can always begin with a card or note. To help you get comfortable with this blessing, here are a dozen things I have learned from greeting cards and their senders:
- Experienced card-senders often specialize. Thoughtful people seem to keep cards on hand for certain events that are fun or meaningful to them — new babies, surgeries, hospitalizations, or a favorite holiday. If this is your gifting, then you likely already know who you are; not all of us get those holiday cards out on time! If you are new at this, consider whether you have a favorite occasion that might motivate you.
- Certain holidays and anniversaries may be lonely for some people. There are those who stay attuned to vulnerable dates and send cards on Valentine’s Day to those who lost their spouse, on Mother’s Day to moms who have miscarried or given up a child for adoption, or on anniversaries of a death to a loved one still here. Personally, I might not be cheered by an avalanche of cards on a sad day, but a single card becomes a highlight to look forward to each year, letting me know I am remembered.
- There are occasions that don’t have their own greeting card categories and can’t be marked on a calendar. You might be the spontaneous sort, someone who remembers the neighbor who is moving and saying good-bye after 50 years, the caregiver recouping after a long night in the Emergency Department, or the middle-aged employee navigating a new job that is a step down from the job that was lost.
- There are casual card-senders. I still appreciate my cousin sending a card some years back, saying nothing more than that she had been thinking of me that day, so nice to open on an unexpected day far from any particular event.
- There are low-cost options. For instance, dollar stores carry perfectly nice greeting cards. Homemade cards can be lavish but they can also be simple and virtually free — the few hand-drawn, hand-written cards I have received have been very special to me. E-card websites often include a print-at-home option; some allow you to personalize the card with names or photos. Or, having a few blank cards on hand means you’re ready to write a personal note on any occasion without going shopping.
- Postcards sent from interesting places are conversation starters—and cheerful refrigerator decor. Postcard champions report that they pack addresses and postage when traveling. If you are not as well prepared, then your someone’s address might be found online or through a quick text message, and a postcard vendor may also have the correct stamp available (or, an ordinary first class stamp won’t cost much more). I have a sister who sends a card to each of her housebound patients when she travels—and one to me as well!
- A close relationship is not required. One of our card warriors was the wife of someone Shane worked with briefly in another town. I’m not sure she ever met Shane, but somehow she made a connection with his journey and blessed him with cards whenever he was hospitalized, which was often.
- Standard greetings don’t always work. Cards for the hospitalized typically say “Get Well Soon,” yet some people are unlikely to ever be well again. Sympathy cards often refer to wonderful memories, yet some families have been estranged. Many receivers won’t notice or won’t mind an awkward sentiment, since they tend to choose the same sorts of traditional cards themselves. However, I have heard a few bitter comments about ill-chosen cards, so it’s worth reading the words carefully if you have a chance.
- The best part of a card isn’t necessarily the fancy part. Greetings don’t need to rhyme or fill the page or be accompanied by charming or clever illustrations. Shuffling through a box of greeting cards on my desk, I find the greetings that made my day over the years were often a single, personal sentence.
- Cards can be funny even during hard times. At our house, we never felt it was disrespectful to receive a bit of humor on a hard day. Consider sending a funny card or a funny story once in a while — recall a good-humored experience, or an event gone wrong with unlikely consequences. If you’re lighthearted but nervous, you can hedge your bets — I have a sister who might send two cards, one funny and one sentimental.
- Clarify who you are. This is essential when your someone doesn’t know you well or hasn’t seen you in a while. However, even when you are close, you may not be the only one with your name, your handwriting may be illegible, and the envelope may have been discarded. I keep a photo card in my desk from years back because the faces are an ongoing mystery to me; I even wonder if it was mis-addressed to someone with our same name.
- Your effort to reach out is more important than other details. If you later regret sending a card late or choosing a poorly worded card — if your congratulations card doesn’t arrive until the newborn is sitting up, or if the get-well card is delivered after it has become clear your someone will not recover — always remember that your effort to reach out is the most important part of your gesture. There is a greeting where there once was none, so you have blessed someone. Take courage from that — and do it again
For ideas on what to say in your greeting, look for part 2, next week.
The awesome part of greeting cards lies in the simple fact that others are keeping us in mind during their busy days. We have the evidence of their care at our house — a box brimming with greetings.
Blog #3, Comments: Do you have greeting card habits to share that could inspire others? Or, have you received cards that have blessed you?