For St. Valentine, because he deserves better.
I love me some Facebook, but I’ve noticed an avalanche of other things where my friend’s status updates used to be. I find it humorous that people are upset when others scroll on by, when they’ve offered little incentive to stop and look. My main reason for going on Facebook is not to be inspired, enlightened, challenged, taught, or entertained, though all of these things take place. I go on Facebook to see what’s happening in the lives of my friends. I enjoy the family pictures, the declarations of love, the documenting of birthdays, weddings and holidays, the silly stories, and the “look what my kid did and I’m so proud” moments. I’ve always been shy and when I see people in social situations that I’m friends with on Facebook, I feel a barrier to approaching them has come down, because I have, at least, a vague idea of what their lives look like. This seems less likely to occur, as personal statuses are replaced with quotes, articles, and cat and dog videos.
We’ve long been trying to take the personal out of our relationships, even though relationships are inherently personal. The cellphone is a primary example of this. Have you ever had someone across from you at a dinner table ignore you while they twiddled with their gadget? I have and I wasn’t impressed. When I’m out with someone, I expect eye contact and conversation. I shouldn’t have to find something else to do while someone checks their emails, their twitter feed, or the number of likes they’ve received on their latest quirky, but charming selfie on Instagram. I’m sitting across from them. Doesn’t that rate as the ultimate “like”? Even more baffling, wasn’t the original intent of the telephone to connect people: families separated by miles could enjoy the sound of their loved one’s voices and catch up on daily goings on? Now we just fumble thumb grammatically incorrect grunts to each other and call it communicating. Texting is convenient for making plans, but it’s not a good way to make or sustain a relationship.
Greeting cards are another way the world tries to interfere with genuine, meaningful connection between individuals. A landmark anniversary, a long-awaited, well-deserved graduation, a sacred wedding ceremony is on the horizon and what is our first thought? We hop on over to the nearest Hallmark. Am I the only one who sees a problem with this? How is it even possible for a stranger to write a heartfelt message to one of our loved ones? There’s nothing personal about greeting cards, other than that they’re created by a team of persons. The messages have to be generic to appeal to a large number of consumers. The cards we give to our mothers, dear children, or best friends are not unique, but mass-produced and marketed. They’re not representations of our thoughts, but someone else’s thoughts. Our thought was to go and purchase a thought, rather than thinking for ourselves. We’ve been duped into buying something else we don’t need.
Why would we pay strangers to say the important things that we need to say to the people who mean the world to us? “Well, I’m not a good writer” is one argument I’ve heard. As far as I know, the average birthday or anniversary message isn’t published in the newspaper or blogged on the internet. Do we really think our relatives and friends expect us to be William Shakespeare? Can’t we just genuinely express our thoughts and feelings with each other? Who wouldn’t prefer a sincere, vulnerable sentence or two over a generic, flowery rhyme? If one is really at a loss, the phrases “I like you” and “I love you” are powerful and I know people who’ve rarely heard these words. There’s always spell check for those who’re concerned about grammar, but be wary of auto correct. My husband says whenever he types in his name, spell check wants to change it from “Myron” to “moron”.
“Well, I don’t have time” is the standard excuse we hear for just about everything these days. I disagree. Many have time to drive to a mall and stand in a card shop, eyeing the artwork, reading the sentimental verses or funny quips, comparing one card with another, and perusing the price points. There’s an hour or more there to be used to write congratulations to a graduate or to pen a love letter.
“Well, I’m not creative” is another falsehood we’ve been deceived into believing. Yes, artwork on cards is lovely to look at, but it’s disposable. Unless you attach value to it, it ends up in a landfill. It’s about the message, not the packaging. We’re all equipped with an incredible combination of mind and heart, idea and depth of feeling. We only need to harness what’s already there. We’re wired to communicate with passion.
My kids have been making cards since they were old enough to draw. The act of making a card is a gift in itself. It says, “I care so much about you that I’m willing to stop what I’m doing and think about you and see what comes of it.” Recently, my daughter was in a hurry and lamented having to make a card. I had previously scanned a piece of her artwork into the computer and after printing it, suggested she write her friend a birthday wish on the inside. My kids are artistic and have come up with some cool designs, but I prefer to use pictures from Google images on my cards. I write something, select an image that suits the message, and simply copy, paste, and print. Some may argue that a handwritten note is the most personal gesture of all and I would tend to agree, except that the quirky fonts appeal to me. Computer or no, the message is always mine, created and signed with love.
Some of you who know me know this about me, but I believe it’s remarkable and will say it again here, because it fits. Every year on my birthday I receive a birthday card from my parents, as many of you do, but my card always has a handwritten list on it. My Dad uses up the white space left on the card to affirm me as a person. He lists my good qualities and achievements. The card may be pretty and the verse clever, but they’re meaningless to me. It’s the list I crave and cherish. I have years’ worth of cards that document my growth over my lifetime, because my Dad takes the time and makes the effort to sit down and think about me. Every once and awhile, I look at these cards again and see what he sees and feel good and grateful. I encourage you to do the same for those you love. You will never know what a message from your soul will do for another human being until you put it out there. In your relationships, you have the power to uplift, inspire, and encourage. Your words can bring meaning, healing, hope, joy and love. Or, you can go to the store. It’s your choice.
Happy Valentines Day!
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