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Isolated No More

3 weeks ago written by

When was the last time you received a card in your mailbox?

No, not your computer mailbox. I’m talking about handwritten, pen to paper, tucked in an envelope with a stamp in the corner — not a bill or junk mail! Was it a caring personal card, the very best and “rightest” kind of mail, that pumped a smile into your soul?

We need to bring back this artful form of communication — especially now as we shelter in place and seek socially distant ways to “encourage one another and build each other up” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Values and lifestyles have changed along with countless comforting aspects of home life. Many were already gone before the pandemic. Now, stuck at home, many of us can see how empty our homes and our souls are.

We’re told in Hebrews 10:24–25 to “consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.” While “meeting together” may not be possible right now, cards allow us to fulfill the passage’s instruction to be “encouraging one another.” Greeting cards can be a gentle tonic, giving us a taste of the community we long for. Both sender and receiver take in a drop of enrichment as “whoever refreshes others will be refreshed” (Proverbs 11:25).

Here’s how to get this out of the dream and into the stream of doing. You can buy a card, or a box of cards, or you can handcraft a card.

Buying a card can be a sport. I had a beautiful, white-haired friend, Anna, who was a master at finding exactly the right card. I miss her dearly since she passed away recently. I miss her cards too (and the many delightful days of anticipating them before birthdays and Christmas). Anna was a one-card shopper on a glorious treasure hunt. She told me once, with a gleeful smile, how she reveled in the search, until the moment when she said as she snapped her fingers, “There! Perfect!”

You can plan ahead and search for many cards on the same trip or, especially in pandemic times, online. Or you can buy a couple of boxes of cards. I keep on hand a box of blank cards and one of mixed occasion cards. Though pre-messaged cards are not always as personal as I would like, I can add a handwritten personal note, and I don’t need to run out and buy a card if the time is short as in the case of an almost-forgotten birthday or a sudden death.

Next comes the handcrafted card. I have a friend who may take up to six hours to create one fantastic card worth framing. My cards are quite simple. They take a bit of pleasant musing but not a lot of time. I keep on hand a supply of old holiday and birthday cards, photos, rubber stamps, ink pads, calendar pictures and sayings, scriptures and other words of wisdom. I also have a supply of postage stamps, tape, glue, ribbons, scissors, stickers —and the confidence that very simple is very good because I am sending love. I’ve found that creating a card can be relaxing and restorative like a mini-retreat on a hectic day.

So now you’re ready to begin. Your card is staring at you from your writing space. You sit down and pick up your pen. What do you write first?  Trust me in this. The first thing you write is the recipient’s name and address on the envelope, and your return address in the top left-hand corner. Then, immediately place the postage stamp in the top right corner.

Doing those three little things first (no matter how tedious it might be to find your grandmother’s new assisted living address) will be the thing that ensures your card actually gets mailed. Saving these steps for “later” may mean that “later” never comes —until it becomes ill-timed to send it at all. This disappointment could stop you from trying again, while a mailed card brings the satisfaction that you followed through and expressed your care. It feels good!

Now for your written loving thoughts.

If your card came with a message printed inside, that may be all that’s needed. Add the personal note if necessary. Always meet the person you are writing to, kindly but squarely, where the relationship really is. This will take common sense. Enjoy thinking it through for clarity, then write accordingly.

If you are thanking a first date for a lovely outdoor dinner (which easily takes a reconnaissance mission to find in these times), express gratitude without gushing or imagining that you are engaged. (It could be your first and only date if you don’t get this right.)

Realize the importance of remaining focused on why you are writing. Thank you? Encouragement? Birthday? Just a hello?  Stick to that, and the appropriate brevity, which is the nature of a card, will follow.  (It is not good to remind your sister in her birthday card that she needs to return the jacket she borrowed.)

Add the date to the top right-hand corner. At the bottom, write your closing regards, a comma  and your name. “Love,” “Warm regards,” “Yours truly,” and so on are best chosen by thoughtfully considering the type of connection you have with the person. “Sincerely,” has stood the test of time.  When in doubt, use it.

Jesus commanded us to “love each other” (John 15:12). Sending a card may seem like a small thing to do to express our love. It is! But its impact could appear as a handheld miracle to an isolated loved one. Plus, the recipient can read it again and again, and treasure it as a reminder of your care.

I now lean toward a special card as a gift for someone in the hospital, assisted living, or rehab. Aside from being an ongoing encouragement when visits are now restricted, a card is easier to carry home than many other gifts. And who wants to steal a card?

Now that you’ve thought through the type of card, the relationship, the purpose for writing, and keeping it to the point, you are on your way to blessing the receiver, and yourself, by unmasking social distancing with the loving touch of a card. “Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Romans 14:19).

So why not go for it?  Write away.

Susan B. Cella is a Los Angeles resident who is committed to communicating creatively for God’s glory in her areas of gifting: drama, encouragement, prayer, teaching and hospitality. She is currently developing a prayer-walking coalition to restore each home to Jesus Christ. She is a member of the Venice Free Methodist Church, which is part of the Pacific Coast Japanese Conference.

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[Vital Signs] · Culture · L + L October 2020 · Magazine