Social Distancing Makes the Heart Grow Fonder...
This week, one of our friends let us know that she hadn’t mailed a card since 1982(!) but had just put all four of the greeting cards she recently received as part of our subscription in the mail. Today we find ourselves in a situation almost demanding we send each other cards. Many of us are tired of social media and we’re not allowed to go visit each other.
While I’m personally tired of reading phrases like “these unprecedented times,” “these difficult times,” etc., we are in fact living through difficult and unprecedented times. As I write this from Chattanooga, Tennessee, the United States has embraced a new way of not being together called “social distancing.” Fears of the novel coronavirus and the disease it causes (COVID-19) have led almost every state to close bars and restaurants and to ban social gatherings of any type. Millions of people have lost their jobs in this country and I believe we’re on the edge of a serious public mental health crisis.
In a world where most of us haven’t heeded the call to take time for contemplation, gratitude, and connection, these measures for preventing the spread of coronavirus are about to change our perspective on the importance of these habits. I sincerely believe that we’re going to need to make an effort to develop an intentional mindfulness practice to remain sane in “these difficult times.” We’re going to have to reconnect more intentionally since we can no longer rely on bumping into each other in public as we go about our busy daily lives. While we've been stuck at home, Chris has created a whole collection of social distancing cards.
Here, I’m outlining my intentions and clarifying a few of the ways I’d like to reconnect while I’m physically separated from the people I love. I hope you find them inspiring and useful. Please let me know what you think and share your own ideas on our Facebook page. If any of this resonates and you want to help our small business in “these uncertain times,” we’d appreciate it if you’d consider our greeting card subscription box. I think you’ll find that having four cards show up at your door every month will help you follow up and turn intention into reality.
My current list of cards to send includes
- A neighbor who dropped a couple of dozen eggs off for us from his father’s farm
- My sister, thanking her for a housewarming gift that we recently installed and are now thoroughly enjoying
- A board member who went above and beyond the call of duty recently at the nonprofit where I work
- Another neighbor who accepted the unenviable position of president of my neighborhood’s homeowners association and has made progress on several issues we face together
- A local college professor who has become involved in the work we do at the nature center here in Chattanooga
- My mother, for not actually taking me back out of the world
Now, for the challenging part: go find all of these people’s addresses and then actually write them a thank you note, or say I’m sorry, or whatever it is you need to say.
I try not to ask the person I’m sending the card to for their address because then they’re expecting something in the mail. I like my greeting cards to come as a surprise. I’ll often ask a friend from the same circle who recently had a wedding because they’ll have everyone’s address from sending out invitations. For family, I just ask whoever had a recent graduation to celebrate. In a professional setting it often is easier to find an address. You can just look in your accounting or marketing databases to find the address you need, or find the company address online.
Commiserating with humor
For our closest contacts, a little humor can go a long way. Many of us are stuck in the same situation, with social distancing starting to get really annoying. Homelife becomes strained and even the most tolerant of couples will start experiencing moments of frustration and annoyance that may erupt into an argument over nothing. It’s best to just acknowledge the situation we’re in and use humor as a pressure valve. See if there’s anything you can do to help.
Then, consider giving a card to the person or people you’re stuck at home with. Let them know you’re there for them, even if you’re perhaps a little crankier than usual. Below are a couple of my favorite cards that could fit the bill.
Had a fight or two while on lockdown? Make sure your partner knows you've got their back.
Making gratitude a practice
Expressing gratitude can be one of the simplest ways to get back in touch with the people who matter in your life during this time of social distancing. Take a minute to consider a few people who have helped you out so far this year. Write them a thank you note. Take five minutes over your morning coffee to think back through the year so far and make a list. I find that actually physically writing the list out helps. The list I gave above comes from doing this exercise myself. Then, write a card a day. Keep it simple and build on your gratitude practice over time. Don’t beat yourself up if you forget or just don’t have time some days.
It’s also worth putting it all in perspective by thinking about what healthcare workers and anyone on the front lines of this crisis have been dealing with for the past few weeks. Take a moment to reach out to a healthcare worker in your life. Thank them for their service and wish them well. Chris just designed a great thank you card for healthcare workers during the coronavirus crisis, and 50% of the purchase price goes to the Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s COVID-19 response fund.
As part of writing this article, I did what I’m suggesting and it only took me about ten minutes to come up with six occasions and then find six cards that I will write and send. I tried to balance personal and professional contacts. Of course, if you don’t own a greeting card company it may take you more time to find the perfect card. If you’re a paper junkie like Chris you’ll likely have a small library to look through and choose something.
Unfortunately, we’re likely to all know someone who gets COVID-19, or perhaps even passes away from this novel coronavirus. Inside my sphere of personal and professional contacts, I’m up to two who have the virus with a couple more suspected cases who haven’t been tested. Thankfully they all fall into low-risk categories and with any luck, they will recover quickly. But no one knows when the pandemic will end and how much destruction it may cause. At the time of this writing, every state has cases and all but one have reported a death. We may get more practice at expressing sympathy than any of us would want.
Personally, I’m using this knowledge as further motivation to connect with the people who matter in my life. This pandemic adds urgency to daily life. It’s time to make the tough phone call. Forgive that person you’ve been holding a grudge against. Offer to help that nosy neighbor who probably is just lonely. Just actually get the damn card written and in the mail.
People in our lives don’t know we have good intentions for them until we translate those intentions into action. I recently saw a great article about people coming together to take the extra time they have to write notes to people in nursing homes who can no longer receive visitors.
Writing a sympathy card may be one of the most difficult acts in this crisis. Unfortunately, one of our friends recently and suddenly lost a spouse, so we’ve felt the awkwardness and uncertainty of not knowing how to help or what to say. One of our sympathy cards for exactly this type of moment simply says “I have no words but I'm here."
We’ve learned that the words actually don’t matter that much. The act of caring matters. “Being there” matters, even if you’re not physically present. The kindness you’re showing by sending the card and showing up for that person in their time of need matters. Taking a moment to let them know you’re there for them: that matters.
How are you intentionally connecting with others right now?
These are my Sunday morning musings after a couple weeks of being on lockdown. I’m sure many of you have even better ideas for how to stay connected while social distancing. Please share your ideas on our Facebook post, and we’ll post a recap article soon with all the ideas you all share.
I’m writing this article with an obvious bias toward writing physical greeting cards, but in between the cards we clearly want to keep in touch digitally as well. While I think social media can be used thoughtfully, I know from my own experience that it’s difficult to take time out of a busy day and write a card. The person you’re sending the card to knows that, too. That’s what makes it such a meaningful act. Plus, it’s way easier, and more gratifying to reread a card.
We started this company with a larger vision of helping people connect through the “lost art” of writing—of sharing a physical piece of paper with another human being, often through the mail. Chris, as the designer, had been a huge paper fan for years and always loved sending and receiving greeting cards. You may know one of those people who has a whole drawer full of stationery ready to be sent at any moment. I, on the other hand, had practiced digital marketing for my entire career, racing from a high-growth outdoor retailer to a startup media company focused on the outdoors. While I promoted the idea of an active outdoor lifestyle—and experienced many adventures for which I am extremely grateful—I still spent the vast majority of my time on the career treadmill, glued to screens or on the phone. I did that for so long that I experienced extreme burnout. I ultimately jeopardized my physical and mental health. Working with Chris to create real-life objects in the real world has been a welcome shift from that digital world. I now miss spending our Sundays selling at the Chattanooga Market, interacting face-to-face with customers. I hope we all can return to our local markets soon.
If you’ve read this far, I’m sure you’re ready to reconnect. If you subscribe to our greeting card box, you’ll get four cards a month including free postage stamps (so you have no excuse for not sending them) and free shipping to you. I know that you’ll find that having cards show up at your home or office every month will help you stick with your intentions and connect with the people who matter to you.
Browse Our Social Distancing Sucks Greeting Card Collection