Wednesday, April 29, 2009

When you care enough to send someone else's very best

Ever wonder what to say to that friend or family member who's going through a difficult time? Well, you're in luck -- so do the fine folks at Hallmark, and thanks to them, you never again have to come up with something heartfelt, thoughtful, or original.

We already rely on greeting cards to tell loved ones how we feel on holidays, but apparently that's not often enough. Hallmark recently unveiled a new series called Journeys: New cards with real words for real life. These "real life" scenarios include dealing with cancer treatment, losing a job, coming out, addiction, and infertility. Granted, all difficult subjects that require sensitivity, and I'm sure someone had the best of intentions in developing a line of greeting cards to address them.

Might I suggest, however, that when a loved one is going through such a personal problem, a personal note might be more appreciated than a generically soothing - and generally meaningless - bouquet of sentimentality, expressed in wispy fonts and frosted with glitter? Or better still, a kind spoken word, in person or over the phone? Or just a simple hug, which acknowledges that so many of these struggles can't be put into words, and don't really need to be?


As you can tell by the fact that I'm blogging about this, I tend to be more comfortable expressing my thoughts and feelings in writing, so I respect the desire or need to put something down on paper rather than try to say it... but in this age of IM, tm (omg), and e-mail, isn't this just one more way to remain comfortably disconnected from discomfort? I certainly understand that this kind of emotional "dumbness" is what sustains the greeting card industry, and as corporations, they can't be held socially responsible for trying to cultivate what nourishes them. As consumers, however, we can certainly acknowledge this for what it is - an effort to capitalize on our increasingly illiterate convenience culture, in which the time and effort to write a heartfelt note just isn't valued - and for what it isn't -- a sort of public service for these trying times in which we live.

Maybe I'm too cynical, but I guess that just means I'm not the target audience of a card that reads thusly: why the stars light their candles every night. Even when the darkness is too deep for you to see them, you know they're out there...shining and beaming across millions of miles like the message you most need to hear…

Don't give up hope, and it won't give up on you.

Rrright. Maybe it would help if they didn't insult your intelligence with vapid metaphors and (b)analogies. Or maybe it would help if I just came up with a few "real world" responses of my own: why the stars light their candles every

They're waiting for you to come home, space cadet.

And you thought it was just gas.

fire...can't exist in space, but whatever.