The lost art of card giving

Once upon a time when it was a friend or family member’s birthday, graduation, wedding, after party thanks, or just good fortune, there was an elegant yet popular craft to wishing them well.

It was regular practice to give and receive cards with a hand written sentiment inside.

In order to give someone a card, I had to get out of bed, shower, get dressed, and go to the shop. I had to stand in front of a million cards and take the time to choose one that would be funny/serious enough without being offensive, yet still sounded like it came from me.

I’d quietly take a better colour envelope purposed for another card, and then pay the shopkeeper a mighty $5. Occasionally, I’d make my own card.

Sitting with a blank card can be a stressful event. Thinking of the right thing to say, summoning your best handwriting and anxiously preventing a mistake. There is nothing more soul destroying in the art of card writing, when you’re forced to leave a nasty corrective scribble or have to buy another card! It particularly sucks when you make an error on a card you’ve lovingly made.

For some people like me, getting the white space balance was important too so writing a card became at least a thirty minute exercise.

After breathing a well-earned sigh of relief, I’d put the card in the envelope and make sure that I didn’t mis-spell their name on the front. All I had to do at this point was ensure it didn’t get crushed or lost before giving it to my friend.

Sometimes I’d mail the card. Sometimes I’d carry the card around with me until I saw my friend next. Other times I would intentionally catch up with a friend for the purpose of giving them their card.

After opening their card and reading it, they would hopefully smile before giving me a hug and a kiss. If it were particularly personal, it wouldn’t be uncommon for them to keep my card for quite a while – potentially forever as a sentimental memoir of our friendship.

And so this process would continue year in, year out. I would receive a card from them and I would return the gesture. I still have a boxful of cards at home from my childhood.

Then during the birth of the internet, some logically intelligent people came along and felt this process was far too complicated. From the birth of e-cards to emails, text messages and now Facebook wall posts, the art of card giving has been slowly degraded to a metric and a notification.

To the robotic data-crunching people, the problem was simple. You have a sentiment to give and someone else wishes to receive that sentiment. Why go through this painful process of card writing when you can just push the necessary data to the correct recipient? It saves time, money and effort!

It saddens me to see web and app services now providing automated birthday gestures for the busy individual. Is this really a future we want to create? We’re too busy for each other anymore? We laughed at and pitied the poor executive in movies who had his assistant buy his gifts, because she knew his family better than he did. I wonder if future generations will laugh at these same movies.

The art of card writing is not about someone receiving your gesture at the right time. It’s about having to think emotionally about someone else. To distill your thoughts and feelings in order to craft an authentic message for them. To take great time and effort to demonstrate that they matter to you, and that despite your crazy lifestyle, they are still a priority.

Gestures such as card writing teaches and trains us to remain respectful, genuine, patient and authentic in relationships. It’s an important key to keeping us human and emotionally connected to each other.

Yes, making the time for someone else can be difficult in our busy lives – that’s why it matters so much. Understandably, you may wish to reserve certain gestures for your closest circle and that’s ok – just make sure that you do.

For if you cannot exercise effort, concern, generosity, gratitude, love, and consideration for others (particularly your most important friends, family, colleagues or clients whom you may rely upon) how can you ever expect or hope for it in return?

So, please give your close friends a real card. Give your regular friends a quick phone call. Hug and kiss your family. And only if you have exhausted these options may you think about leaving a message. Yes it’s effort, but it’s the same effort you’d hope someone would extend for you. It goes both ways remember?

You see, the art of card writing was never about just passing on a message. It’s always been about giving others your full attention.

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