When I first heard about the terrible earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan on March 10, 2011 I had tears in my eyes thinking of the terrible devastation and the thousands of people who surely lost their lives.
Working in the greeting card business I am surrounded each day by Christmas Cards, Birthday Cards, Get Well, Thinking of You and many other types of cards. But what type of card would provide comfort to someone who is surrounded by such tragedy? As the news stories grew grimmer, greeting cards started to seem…well hardly a necessity. It honestly got me thinking about how I spend my time working at a greeting card company…do greeting cards really serve a purpose? A legitimate question I think when you consider how much of our lives, how much of our time is actually spent on and at work. Was I really spending my life’s work on something worthwhile?
So I thought further and realized that greeting cards were really all about connecting with other people. It differs from any other type of communication when you really think about it. You might be giving it to someone sitting as close as the cubicle next to you or sending it to someone thousands of miles away. Unlike an email, letter, text or phone call, a greeting card always has a cover with a design or photo or some decorative text on it. It can feature something funny, touching or beautiful. It is designed to invoke some kind of reaction or emotion upon receiving it. The sentiment inside is often chosen with care and conveying a certain message or thought. Many of us who might struggle to find just the right words to say, can find a greeting cards that appropriately expresses our thoughts. Yet, what would I say to someone in Japan in a greeting card? How does getting a greeting card from someone in the States even matter under the circumstances?
I actually think it could matter a lot. It is a way to show emotional support even from a complete stranger half way across the world. With an opportunity to write your own personal message it can bring hope, love and prayers to someone who has suffered so much loss. It could be one of the only bright spots in someone’s day. It carries with it the potential to be the only reason someone has to smile that day…perhaps even for the first time in a long while. I don’t happen to think that is any small thing. It just might remind them that beyond the destruction there still exists a world, one that truly cares about the fate of these unfortunate people. It has the power to connect one human being to another.
I remember the many sympathy cards we received after my father’s untimely death. I read each and every one – some of them more than once. I was continually surprised and amazed how we heard from people who we had not been in touch with for years, yet who dearly remembered my beloved father. Some wrote a brief funny little story, others simply remembered him fondly and expressed their deep regret at our loss. During such a dark and difficult time in my life, those sympathy cards brought real comfort and did so in a way that I could handle. I had the luxury of reading them in private and on my own time table, when I was ready to do so.
I think it was then that I realized that a greeting card can say a lot to the recipient but it can also speak volumes about the thoughtfulness of the sender. And so now, many years later and after some serious reflection, I have decided that I am, indeed, doing something worthwhile with my time. In fact, right now I’m feeling pretty good about what I do, but much more importantly, what greeting cards can do to others when selected and sent with real thought.
So yes, I do believe greeting cards really can make a difference…even in troubled times.