The humble greeting card may seem like a lost art in a sea of social media. Even though we now have multitudes of ways to communicate with one another, they tend to simplify our reactions to breakups, babies and bad news with an array of vaguely descriptive smiley-faces.
However, there is still something inherently special about a physical object, like a greeting card, affirming those same sentiments.
In this day and age, everyone is busy — checking their emails on smart phones while juggling groceries and completing other tasks, just so they can get it all done. People can fit interacting on social media into their busy schedules, yet it can still feel like you’re all alone.
Perhaps it’s because you still need a truly personal connection, one that doesn’t happen from behind a screen. One way to bring back the idea of an actual personal connection is to revive the dying art of the handwritten card.
It can be overwhelming, though. On top of navigating through what can sometimes be described as a social minefield of etiquette and expectations, it’s often hard to find greeting cards that even relate to you and your community. Have you ever been struck by the lack of diversity in the card aisle of the grocery store? If that’s kept you from buying cards for your loved ones’ highs and lows — check out our selection of handmade African American cards for some inspiration.
When in Doubt, Send a Note
Sure, there are plenty of reasons not send a letter or handmade card, but a lot of those reasons sound more like excuses. Maybe you’re telling yourself to go green or that your friends are so bogged down by the junk in their own lives they don’t need anything else in the mail box. Maybe it seems outdated to you, and you think of yourself as being very tech-savvy and on-trend. Maybe Christmas passed you by, and then New Year’s, and now that Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, it’s simply too late.
Cut it out, and pick up a pen. Your best friend, grandmother or long-lost cousin will be happy to hear from you in an unexpected medium — even if that birthday card doesn’t make it exactly on their birthday.
People don’t look forward to opening the mail any more, which is fair, because it seems like an endless barrage of credit card statements, Subway coupons or special offers on a pre-approved auto loan. Letters give hope to the grieving, the struggling and the sick. They tell our loved ones they have someone who cares about them, and it reminds them again later when they are feeling low. People keep the things that trigger certain good memories.
When you’re trying to offer support to someone going through a difficult situation, a handwritten note inside a beautiful card gives them a chance to “hear” your words in your writing. In many cases, with a greeting card, it doesn’t necessarily create pressure to respond right way, either, which can alleviate a little stress for the recipient. When it comes to emails, texting, social media or even face-to-face conversations, responding quickly often seems required.
Maybe you just went in to interview for a new job. Perhaps someone sent you a beautiful gift or helped you clean up after a party. Whatever the case may be, sometimes we need to be reminded that we’re appreciated. Life can be taxing — it’s beautiful to be sure, but between our families, church obligations or keeping up with our friends and an infinite number of errands, we often feel underappreciated or invisible.
Something as seemingly simple as a greeting card goes a long way to let someone know you value them. You can send them to anyone you appreciate in your community or network.
No one can argue against the hidden powers of the handwritten note. There is something inherently warm and special about it, especially as a way to give thanks to the people you love. We’ve been told from an early age by the Emily Posts, grandmothers and aunts of the world that, generally speaking, the rule is to always, always, always send a thank you card if you’ve received a gift. Don’t just use a phone call, text or email — especially if the gift giver was not there to be thanked in person.
If you’re sending a thank you note to a prospective employer or thanking someone for a charitable donation, keep it short and sweet. Thank them for their time or their donation and let them know their efforts are greatly appreciated. A thank you for a gift can be longer and more expressive, since you are likely sending the card to a friend or family member.
Send Congratulations Cards
New baby, new job? Perhaps your friends are newly engaged? Send along your blessings. We don’t celebrate the victories for others enough. All of life’s many blessings should be celebrated, especially the big stuff like milestones and achievements. Be genuinely happy for others and let them know you are with a special handmade black American greeting card.
This might seem a bit obligatory and maybe overdone, but hear us out. Many of us used to experience the mailbox card bounty that comes along with the Christmas season. However, where the holiday greetings once came pouring in from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, the holiday spirits have all but dried up in favor of easier e-cards (which, let’s face it, always end up in a spam folder).
Kind wishes and updates from friends, close and distant relatives are a gift in and of itself. Holidays are a joyous time of year, and a handwritten note is a good way to send some cheer in a tangible way. No one prints out an Instagram update and tapes it to the mantel of their fireplace.
It’s a good time to also let your friends and family know what’s going on with your children, work life and travel plans. Just be sure to ask them how the things in their lives are going as well. It initiates contact and fosters a sense of caring. Plus — when you ask people for their address, they get excited. Who doesn’t like having something to look forward to in the mail? An added bonus, if you send cards, you’re more likely to receive them in return.
Also, Christmas isn’t the only time to spread some cheer. Send an Easter card, for instance, when the air starts to get that little hint of spring.
A Handwritten Love Note for a Special Someone
We’ll venture a guess that no one has printed out a Facebook message that says “I love you.” Sure, people happily post photos and captions declaring their love for a sweet spouse who made a beautiful meal or just to show other people how they really feel, but why not send something much more private to someone? When it’s not on display for all to see, it somehow feels more genuine and less performative.
While showcasing your love in public has some perks, try taking a break from the online scene and let someone know how you feel with a card. It doesn’t matter if it’s not Valentine’s Day, a birthday or another occasion. A “just because” message is sometimes more special. Whether you’re closing in on a 30-year anniversary or just met someone new, expressing your love (or your “like”) in your own handwriting is truly powerful and is far more expressive than any computer-generated typeface can ever hope to be. A personalized love note is a keepsake that’ll stay in the memory box for years to come.
The Tough Stuff — Illness, Death and Grief
Few things test our faith in the same way as losing someone close to us. It’s the end of a chapter, reminding us there are certain things we simply cannot outrun. Showing support during times of crisis is hard, and even when our spouses or closest friends are going through a time of hardship, we sometimes find ourselves tongue tied.
Unfortunately, one of the easiest things to do is walk away or sweep a problem under the rug or avoid the “awkward” situation that is another person’s pain. We get it. It’s tough to be supportive or to find the right words to say, but saying nothing is probably the worst thing. Here’s what you might be able to do during some of life’s roughest spots:
- When Someone Dies
There is nothing harder than finding out someone you care about has passed. When this happens to a friend — maybe they’ve lost a spouse or a parent, or even a beloved pet — it’s hard to know what to say.
What can you do? Reach out and mention you are thinking of them in your prayers for comfort and healing.
You can also send a card. Keep the tone of the card soothing and respectful. Even a brief statement letting them know you're thinking of them during their time of grief can be comforting.
- Divorce and Breakups
The end of a relationship represents and ending of a chapter in a person’s life, and it often leaves them with no idea how to fill that void. Spending years or decades thinking someone will always be there and having it abruptly end is a traumatic event that often gets trivialized or prompts insensitive advice about getting back in the dating game.
Send a card that shows you care and are thinking of the person during this difficult time. Don’t offer unsolicited advice, but be supportive and encouraging. Even a simple “thinking of you” card can go a long way to brighten someone’s day — which when you’re going through a divorce or a break-up, brighter days are a very good thing.
- When a Loved One Is Sick
When a friend reveals they have a terminal or life-threatening illness, so many complex emotions come to the surface. Fear of losing someone close, your own anxieties around illness and death as well as the fear of saying the wrong thing or acting inappropriately tend to surface. Whether it’s a dear friend, a colleague or a close family member, finding the right words is difficult.
The key is to approach the really hard life lessons like these with empathy, not sympathy. In many cases, sympathy often feels like a close relative to pity, and it can give the sick person an uncomfortable experience of feeling like a burden for what they cannot change.
Try sending a card that expresses empathy to the friend who found out they have cancer. In it, offer to drive them to appointments or drop off meals to make things easier on them. One thing to keep in mind, is to be specific when you are offering to help someone. Ask them when they want company, when they need to be alone, what’s helpful and what’s not helpful, what do they want you to bring when you see them.
Don’t blindly send cellophane wrapped gift baskets or a card without a personal handwritten message. Don’t post on their Facebook wall, either, unless responding to something they write. Illness is private, and most people, at least not right away, don’t want to broadcast devastating news to their entire social network.
At the end of the day, sending cards to those in our lives is one of the many ways to let them know we care. Reach out to your loved ones — through the mail. It’s a slower, more satisfying nice thing to do for someone. Take your time and articulate exactly what you mean without the pressure of coming up with quick, quippy banter.
If you’ve ever been curious where to find African American handmade greeting cards that express the full range of the human experience, stock up and order online at African American Expressions. We have both printed and handmade cards, as well as some great gifts to go with them. We’re proud of our heritage, and we hope to share it with the people around us — one card at a time.