At my workplace last year I headed a “card campaign” resulting in close to a thousand hand-made cards going to various recipients: an orphanage, a crisis shelter for pregnant moms and new moms with newborns, a mentally disabled center, several senior centers, and the military. Though we weren’t able to personally deliver the military cards, we did personally deliver the cards to the recipients within our community. And, wow! I think as adults we often forget the power of something as simple as a piece of paper, stickers, glue, glitter, and a hand-written message signed with a first name.
One of the senior centers we visited included an area inhabited by residents with memory loss. As we gave each person a card, however, it seemed to strike a memory chord. Stories of their past came to life as we patiently sat, listening, waiting, loving the telling of these stories that evoked smiles and laughter from the teller, and created a warm feeling for us. One gentleman called the young man with us “son” as he recounted his days in the military. An elderly couple, newly met and married, shared adventures from their childhoods. A lady whom workers say hadn’t smiled in a very long time grew misty-eyed while holding the hand of a young lady and telling her how loved she was. Many commented on the fact that the cards were made rather than purchased. All read the sentiments as they were meant…especially for the recipient from the heart of the giver. We later returned with baked goods and some signed on to volunteer periodically at the centers.
Several of the crisis shelter moms were overwhelmed that anyone would find them worthy or deserving of a card. How heartbreaking that was to hear! With hugs, tears, and thanks that someone would look past their circumstance and care just for them, these precious moms shared they wanted only something better, some hope, some acceptance, someone to acknowledge them and really see their hearts and how much they loved their babies. In a world where so many feel they are worthless, these young women were committed to making their children feel valued, and for some, that meant walking away from their past lives, connections and even family. One said the card was the first thing going in her new life scrapbook. We later returned with items to meet physical needs like diapers and clothing and toiletry packs.
We visited the mental facilities for adults on a day when they were serving a holiday meal. The patients were cautious, some fearful, some suspicious as we walked through and allowed each one to pick out a card. Tentative hands looked at us to make certain it was okay to reach out. Some expressed a desire for a specific color card. A few questioned if they could keep the card and were delighted to hear it was theirs to keep. One kissed his card after reading it and tucked it inside his shirt. Most sat their cards in front of their plates and some shared their cards with others nearby. One man asked why we did this and we told him we wanted to wish him a Merry Christmas. His eyes became wet and he said no one had done that in a long time. Another man told us he couldn’t say when was the last time he had a card because his family didn’t want him anymore. An older woman with long gray hair said she knew who had made the card for her and that made her feel loved, and pointed to the first name signature on the card. It meant much for them to know the name of the card maker. One person later returned to volunteer at the center.
We weren’t able to interact with the children at the orphanage but we did receive a letter telling us about the joy it brought the children to have hand-made cards just for them.
Because we saw the power of the card last year, we’re doing it again this year and hope to reach out to more people than ever. I’m not sure if there is more joy for the adults to be kids and make cards using glitter and glue and scissors and colored paper and stickers and their own imagination, or if the most joy comes when they are given to the recipients of their labor. Or perhaps the most joy is felt by the recipient who has been singled out and honored by a stranger who took the time to make something from the heart and pass it on.
Though the card is the vehicle, the motion, the power of the card comes from the intention of kindness and the act of sharing a little piece of yourself with someone else. And that’s pretty powerful stuff that equals joy all around.
Let me hear from you if you decide to do something like this at your workplace…the cost is minimal but the results are priceless!
What a gift it was to read this. It is an honor to know you.