Today’s communication tools such as e-mail, texting, Facebook, and Twitter were designed to help people stay in touch. While I enjoy using these tools (except for e-mail), I sometimes feel as if our dependence on technology has made it more difficult to develop authentic relationships.
One thing that I like to do to remain connected with people is to send Christmas cards. I’m not talking about those cute e-cards with the reindeer and dancing bears. I’m talking about the actual paper-based products with glitter and fancy fonts that require a stamp to reach its destination. Each year, I mail over 500 Christmas cards to friends, family, and business associates. Sending this many cards is quite a chore. I have to purchase the cards, get rolls of stamps from the Post Office, sign each card, and address each envelope. I always seem to question whether all of this work is really worth the effort.
Whenever I start to question the value of sending these cards, I think back to an encounter I had with my neighbor. She made me realize that the simple act of sending a Christmas card can have a huge impact on someone’s life.
In 1998, my wife, KayEm, and I lived in a duplex in Jacksonville, FL. One night, I noticed KayEm, printing out several sheets of paper.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“I’m printing out our Christmas card list,” she said.
“What’s the point of sending Christmas cards?” I asked. “Nobody reads them. They just toss them in the trash. Why should we even waste the time and money?” I don’t know why I was feeling so Scrooge-like, but the thought of sending out cards seemed absolutely ridiculous.
“It’s a nice gesture to show our friends and family that we’re thinking about them,” said KayEm. “Now come on and help me. Your job is to seal the envelopes and attach the stamps.”
I begrudgingly agreed to help. As I licked the envelopes, I noticed a card addressed to our neighbors.
“Why are we mailing Dan and Beth a Christmas card,” I asked. “They live right above us. We can carry it up to them and save a stamp.” My wife ignored me and kept stuffing the envelopes. I sighed and continued licking.
A few days later, I pulled into the driveway and saw Beth walking up the stairs. She immediately stopped and turned back to meet me.
“Hello, Beth,” I said. “How are you doing?”
“I wasn’t doing very well until I received your Christmas card,” she said.
“What are you talking about?” I asked. She explained that she had been ill and was feeling depressed about her condition. Dan tried to cheer her up, but to know avail.
“When I opened that Christmas card and saw that cute little kitten with the Santa hat, I smiled,” she said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve smiled. That little card made me feel good and gave me hope. Thank you.”
She gave me a hug and climbed the stairs to her apartment. I was flabbergasted and a little embarrassed by my reluctance to send out the cards. When I told KayEm about the encounter, she wisely resisted the urge to say, “I told you so.”
Since that moment, I’ve been a firm believer in sending out Christmas cards. In fact, my list seems to grow every year. One person’s smile makes all of the effort worthwhile.