The Lost Art of Card Writing

When was the last time you received a handwritten card?

No, not a text message or a short e-mail from someone–a true, hand written card, where someone had to drive to a store, pick out a design, craft a sentiment, and find a way to deliver–all just for you. Like many things in life, technology and our busy lives have killed the art of card writing (it is much easier to pull up your e-mail and send a few characters or to pick up a gift card off the rotator at the store and sign your name).

I like the idea of sending handwritten cards for many reasons. For one, something that is handwritten–not typed nor set in Times New Roman–invests in the individuality and identity of a person. Most of us handwrite slower than we type (and there’s no auto correct) so receiving a handwritten card means that someone spent time, thinking independently of US, and had to be meticulous and thoughtful with their words.

Hand written cards can be exchanged and opened in private–sometimes, for a variety of reasons, there are things we cannot say directly to each other–whether that is because the ideas are painful to share, because we are breaching new territory in our relationship, because we are bashful or afraid of their response, because we want to be humble–whatever the reason, when we handwrite a card, we give someone an opportunity to receive it privately, to read it privately, to process it privately, and to respond (or not respond) to it privately.

It is more exciting to receive a positive note in your mailbox, rather than another bill or department store circular. Perhaps my favorite thing in the world to do (other than dancing) is to give the element of surprise, and I love anticipating the moment in which my card recipient will open their mailbox, slip into their desk, etc., and find something unexpected.

And, words hold powerful meanings and are things that cannot be bought and can be immortal. Right, anyone can go to the store and buy me a new set of roller skates, and while I’d definitely welcome that gift, the words that someone shares in a card are priceless. Words allow us to transport ourselves back into earlier times in our lives and to remind ourselves of things we’ve done, people we’ve met, experiences we’ve had.

I’d like to propose a movement–a movement in which we promote the lost art of card writing.

(You might say, “Oh but I’m not a good writer. I can’t send a card”–let me help you out–you can totally plagiarize my work).

The Birthday Card:
I love writing birthday cards because it allows me an opportunity to reflect on my relationship with the person, to commemorate our relationship, and to remind myself of the year’s adventures (since the last birthday card I wrote). I want this card to be tailored to the person, to highlight on what I think are their most valuable attributes to society, and to share a fond memory I have, and provide wishes for a successful and adventurous next year.

Dear [Friend]: happiest of birthdays! I remember when we first met, you were just beginning to learn to ride a bike, and now you are learning how to drive a car! I’m always so impressed with your diligence, your determination, and your zest for life! You encourage me to always be seeking new adventures and I hope that this next year finds you more opportunities for growth and laughter! Thank you for gracing the world with your presence and I hope that you spend the whole day, reflecting on a what a light to this world and to all of us you truly are! 

The Engagement/Wedding Card:
Every time I sit down to write an engagement/wedding card, inevitably, I am reminded of the power of love. In my writing process, I usually start with thinking about my relationship with the bride/groom, thinking about when they met/what involvement I had in that, and then taking myself through their journey in their relationship, and what I admire about that, and ending with a note about how excited I am for them to continue their journey together.
(….maybe someday when I am married, I will throw in a little piece of wedding advice, but can’t call myself an expert on that just yet…)

To [The Newly Engaged/Married Couple]: I remember, sitting in Paris, drinking carbonated water many years ago, and dreaming about the day in which we would both meet our Future Husbands. When [Friend] met you, I knew instantly that this guy was different than the rest–he was kind, compassionate, and held up her dress when she had to walk through an unexpected puddle. It has been an honor to watch your relationship grow over the years and I could not think of a couple I’m more excited for to enter into marriage! Your commitment to each other has reminded me of the power of love–that so much good does come of it! Thank you for allowing me to witness your journey and I am excited to continue watching how your next stage molds and develops your relationship! 

The Thank You Card: 
There are a plethora of things we can thank people for–giving us a ride home, letting us stay at their house, inviting us to an interview, donating money to our cause, providing a reference for us, serving as a mentor, listening to us blubber about some existential crisis, etc. When I write a thank you card, I start with (A) what I’m thanking them for, (B) why it was valuable to me/what I learned from it, (C) how my life was impacted by it, and (D) re-stating what I’m thanking them for. I also try to put as many specifics and as much personalized touches in these letters as possible–maybe include a point of conversation we had, an event that occurred, a quote they might relate to, etc. In any circumstance that calls for a thank you card, someone else did something for us, so we want to make sure we spend the time and let them know that we were also thinking specifically and independently of them.

Thank you for offering to let my dogs out while I was at work. Because my schedule was so hectic, you letting Rufus and Scout out during the day alleviated so much stress from my day. As a person, I often forget to ask for help from others, and you reminded me of the importance of building a community and that it truly does take a village. Thank you, again, for taking care of the pups! 

Thank you so much for attending my birthday party and for your generous cash gift! It was so nice to visit with you and to hear about your recent travels to Croatia! I especially loved our conversation about the food and I am reminded of how fortunate I am to have such wise and cultured people in my life. I, too, am planning a trip to Europe and will put your cash gift into my savings fund! Thank you, again, and I hope to see you soon! 

The Send Off Card: 
These cards can be written from two different vantage points–one, from when someone else is departing, and two, from when we are departing. For some reason, as humans, we often only think in beginnings and endings of things–it is usually not until we are about to begin something, or when we are ending something (and rather, not in the middle of it or during it) that we are reflective on the experiences. So, when writing a send off card, I always try to highlight the experiences we’ve had together, what I’ve learned, and what I hope to carry into my next chapter.

To [Whomever]: While this time of parting is bittersweet, I just wanted to take a moment and reminisce on how formative you have been in my development. I remember walking into the office on the first day, feeling overwhelmed and not even knowing where the bathroom was, and that you opened me with welcome arms. I’ve enjoyed all of our conversations, from ones about The Bachelorette to ones about social justice and best paint colors for cars, and while I am sad to be leaving, I am hopeful that we will continue conversing with each other! 

The Apology Card: 
Boo–who wants to write these kinds of cards? No one, but sometimes, apology cards are necessary in resolving conflict. This is a great example of a type of card where, it might be too difficult for us to apologize in person, so writing a card allows us that opportunity to share our humility in an ‘easier’ way. This also works well for the other person, because they can read the apology in private, and then have an opportunity to process and reflect before responding. I like to use the structure of: I want to apologize for (whatever you feel you did wrong), explain why it was wrong, what you learned from the experience, and how you hope to rectify it.

Dear [Teacher]: I am writing this note to apologize for the way that we mistreated the substitute teacher last week. It was wrong of us to allow our classmates to be disruptive, and I know that I should have spoken up and helped the substitute calm down the class. Through this experience, I’ve learned the importance of being on a team and how we all contribute to the value of an experience, and I sincerely apologize for the bad substitute report. In the future, I will try to be better about speaking up and reminding my classmates of appropriate school behavior. 

The Just Because Card:
I usually start this card with the occasion that caused the ‘Just Because’ card. Was I listening to a song that reminded me of them? Had I happened to have passed by an old childhood playground? Did I run into a person who knew them and conversation sparked? These cards are usually a bit shorter (so that means I can pick one from the card aisle that has more pictures and less writing space), but are definitely just as important and might rekindle a lost connection.

To [My Long Lost Friend]: I was at our alma mater the other day and stopped by the space where my iPod was stolen when we were in high school. Do you remember how traumatizing that situation was, and how blocky and cumbersome those original iPods were? Anyways, it took me down a trip through memory lane of all our extravaganzas and I just wanted to drop you a note and let you know that I was thinking about you! Let’s catch up sometime soon! 

Let’s start a movement to bring back old fashioned hand written cards!
(Send me an e-mail and I’ll even help you craft a response!)

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