My appreciation for handwritten notes and cards began when I was 8 years old. After getting the mail, my mom announced — much to my surprise — that there was an envelope for me. My grandmother’s friend had sent me a card shaped like a cat since she knew that I loved animals. That simple act made me feel seen and acknowledged in a way that I hadn’t before. As I grew older and started sending and receiving more handwritten cards, I understood more deeply how the written word can nourish friendships, offer support and bring joy.
While occasions like birthdays and holidays are the most common times when people send and receive cards, there are ample opportunities throughout the year to reach out to the special people in our lives. Though I value the speed and ease of email, there still is something spiritual about holding a card in your hands that someone took the time and effort to write.
Here are five non-obvious opportunities to drop a note to someone special.
When a friend is having a rough week at work
Even in the best of circumstances, jobs can have stressful moments– or days. Problems with coworkers, missing out on a promotion, or getting buried by a complicated project can all can take their toll. An understanding word from a friend not involved is a source of comfort. Saying something as simple as, “I know this has been a tough week, so I just wanted to let you know that I’m thinking of you” serves a reminder of the support all around.
When we haven’t spoken in a while
Sometimes, it feels like the days — and months — pass by quickly. It can be easy to get so wrapped up in my daily routine that I lose touch with friends often without meaning to. There have been many times when I have gone to pick up my phone to call a friend only to feel uncertain — like perhaps too much time had passed. I wanted to reconnect, but without any potential awkwardness. Dropping a note in the mail felt like the perfect, no-pressure solution.
When a loved one is going through unexpected life changes
Jobs change, finances fluctuate and people get sick– all often without warning. When life throws a curveball, having extra support can be invaluable. When I felt overwhelmed by chronic health challenges, there was hardly any energy leftover at the end of the day. Rereading a note of support that my friend sent so that I would have some cheerful mail to open when I arrived home from a hospital stay provided a sense of comfort in my exhausted moments. When my friend recently found out that she needed surgery, I didn’t hesitate to write her a note of encouragement. I knew how much it could mean.
When a friend is going through a breakup
There’s no pain like heartbreak. After I went through a tough breakup, my friend Christine wrote jokes about why it would be better to be single just to make me laugh. Another friend reminded me that everyone’s life unfolds in its own time and in its own way — and that good things would come if I had faith in the process and kept moving forward. These heartfelt words lifted my spirits, and I always try to do something similar to comfort others experiencing heartbreak.
When I’m in a long-distance friendship
When my friend Julia relocated across the country for grad school, I knew we would keep in touch, but I was unsure what that would look like since we were both busy students with full academic schedules. Instead of trying to schedule regular phone dates, we began writing letters — it was easier and could be done during rare moments of free time without concerns about time differences or each other’s schedules. After spending hours staring at a screen doing schoolwork, it felt like a respite to pick up a pen and put it to paper.
When writing to someone I care about, I’ve learned not to worry about finding the perfect words. Just the act of reaching out and speaking from the heart is more than enough.
Originally published on September 11, 2019.