Recently I sent my father a personalized thank you card as part of an ongoing joke between us that started about 40 years ago. It involves postage stamps or rather my lack of them. I enclosed an entire sheet of postage stamps in the greeting card with an explanation that I was finally repaying him for all the stamps I had “borrowed” over the years and thanked him for letting me have one whenever I needed to mail something. Well, his response was definitely not what I expected. Instead of graciously saying thank you, his reaction was along the lines of, “It didn’t begin to cover what I had helped myself to over the years!”
He proceeded to remind me of all the times he had gone into his stamp drawer in his desk and discovered there was not a stamp to be had. He remembered the one time when the mortgage was almost late because I had taken his last stamp on a holiday weekend back in the 70s when they couldn’t be purchased online or at the supermarket. My reply to that was, “Well if the post office is closed there is no mail delivery on a holiday anyway!”
Looking back, I must admit I did “help myself” to a lot of his stamps but for good reasons. I had a pen pal that I wrote to all the time in grammar school (very educational). I used to mail in to a lot of contests throughout high school (to win prizes) and mail in rebates for items I purchased (both of which would save Dad money in the long run). In college, I would usually help myself to some stamps to take back to school with me so I could mail him letters asking for money when I needed it. It was cheaper than calling him collect on the phone, I rationalized. After I got married and moved out-of-state, the stamp borrowing ceased for a few years and I bet Dad missed that I didn’t need him for his stamps all those years.
But the marriage ended and I became a single Mom with lots of bills to pay and pennies to pinch, so when I visited Mom and Dad I would usually bring a few unstamped bills home with me with an explanation that I hadn’t had time to go to the post office to buy stamps. Dad’s reaction was usually, “I didn’t know you even knew where or what a post office was!” Do I detect sarcasm?
I am better these days with my postal issues because I discovered you can buys books of stamps from the cashier at the supermarket. What a great idea! I bet Dad wished he had come up with that idea years ago. I am not even going to attempt to repay my father for all the stamps he thinks I still owe him. But I will mention this – my daughter called me the other day to ask if I had a stamp and a thank you card to send to her aunt to acknowledge the check she had just sent her. I guess there is a “stamp gene”…and you just can’t fight heredity!
I am told that my friends no longer enjoy shopping with me when I need to buy a birthday card. I can’t imagine why. I work for a greeting cards company and one of my responsibilities is to do quality control while our many business birthday cards are being manufactured. Apparently, I continue to carry on my quality control duties while shopping for birthday cards with my friends. I seem to care more than they do about how each birthday card we are looking at was produced.
Last year, when I celebrated my birthday, I was told that I continued to quality control each birthday card that I received. I felt slightly embarrassed while sitting at the table opening each and every birthday card, immediately realizing what was wrong with each greeting card. Well, maybe not that embarrassed. Talk about occupational hazard…my mind just automatically checks each greeting card.
However, there was one birthday card that did not need my quality control. When I got home from work the day before my birthday, I was shocked to discover that my company had sent me something in the mail. When I opened it, I was delighted to discover a business birthday card from the executive team of my company! This was the first time I had ever received a business birthday card and was truly impressed to receive one, as I hadn’t yet been at the company for a year and did not even work in the actual office! But because of this nice gesture, somehow receiving that birthday card meant more to me than the other birthday cards I received from the people whom I had known forever.
I sent my Grandmother “Oma” a set of boxed birthday cards to keep on hand after the holidays had ended. She had mentioned how difficult it was for her to get out of the house lately. The usually temperate small town she lives in had been hit hard very early this winter. Knowing my Oma would travel through snow, sleet, and flooded roads to get a birthday card for one of the dozens of people she acknowledges on their “special day,” I thought it best to send her assorted birthday cards so she wouldn’t have to travel outside her cozy home to show someone she was thinking of them.
I arrived home after work to a stack of mail as usual: a few circulars, advertisements for that week’s one day sale, and a couple of my monthly bills. Amongst the plain envelopes and colorful coupons was an envelope for a Gallery Collection greeting card. I can spot that envelope from a mile away! Not only does the unique deckled edge make the envelope pop, but the birthday cards are just the right size to make them stand out in a crowd.
I was running late for a night out so I hadn’t planned on opening my mail right away. The bills could wait, but this was a greeting card! I had to open it and see who had sent it to me. In the envelope was a birthday card with a blue balloon and soaring stars, one of my personal favorites. Inside was a sweet message from my Oma, in the most perfect handwriting you’ve ever seen, wishing me a happy birthday almost a week before the actual day. I can always count on my Oma to remember a special occasion, and now she can always count on those boxed birthday cards to have just the right greeting cards she needs to show her family and friends how much she cares!
A greeting card can be used in many different ways – just take a look at all the different types of corporate greeting cards available on this website! The first use that comes to mind is an expression of goodwill towards the recipient, be it for a holiday, a birthday, or to congratulate or thank. That goodwill, however, can be “paid forward” with just a simple act.
Many customers order their corporate greeting cards with a special imprint. Some thank patrons or clients at Christmas time with mention of their end-of-year donation to a favorite charity inside of their greeting cards. Others celebrate the birthdays of their employees by donating to an organization in the employee’s name.
Using a greeting card to pay it forward doesn’t always have to include such a grand gesture. Small acts of kindness are just as meaningful. Think of a colleague who may be having a rough time, and send her a thinking of you card. Perhaps a client is having her first child. Send a congratulations card. Did colleagues in the office pilot a recycling program for the company? Why not send thank you cards? You can even choose a greeting card made with windpower in light of the situation.
In my greeting card Googling (yes, I do Google greeting cards – it comes with the job description), I discovered what, to me, may be the most interesting use of greeting cards in the “pay it forward” aspect. Amnesty International annually asks members to send greeting cards with messages of support to prisoners and human rights defenders worldwide. This small act of goodwill lets those receiving the greeting cards know someone remembers them, and the message to write in the greeting card is as simple as “We’re thinking of you.” I was disappointed to discover that the 2007 Holiday Card Action program had ended in January, but it’s a great cause to remember during the 2008 holiday season.