I was watching a team of window washers working many floors up a tall tower and had a reaction I often have, "That's another job I could not do."
Do you remember career tests in high school? We answered dozens of questions and then waited for a computer printout of the jobs that fit our temperament and aptitude. I don't recall all that was on my list but I remember what wasn't. It's a career that isn't listed on the National Occupation Classification but it would have been a dream job for me. I would have loved to create messages for greeting cards.
I love cards. I love getting them, but even more I like giving them. I have an entire plastic tub filled with a wide selection for every type of occasion.
A few summers ago I toured the Hallmark Centre in Kansas City. Visitors can see displays representing all aspects of the Hallmark business model. Incredible Christmas trees line one area decorated with their vast collection of ornaments. In another space you get to create your own gift wrapping bows. In one popular area you can stop in a series of sound booths and watch all the commercials Hallmark has aired over the years. I challenge even the toughest character to come out of that room without tears spilling down your cheeks or a lump forming in your throat.
But of all we did and saw that day, I harbored a touch of wistfulness as I watched artists and writers talk about the creative process that goes into making cards. What an amazing job combining words and artwork to create beautiful messages. The right card can say it all.
A good friend of mine gave me a gift boxed set called "A Year of Gratitude" containing 52 cards and envelopes, along with a journal. The idea was to send out one card each week to someone I could express gratitude to and make a note of that in the journal. I loved it! It truly was the gift that kept on giving because each week I was tasked with finding reasons to express appreciation. In the looking, I found it. Again and again and again.
I got to know a woman a few years ago who loved making cards. Each one was unique in design, and inside were beautiful handwritten words from this special lady. She passed away a few weeks ago and we have found ourselves talking many times about the blessings contained within her cards.
We have been exchanging greeting cards since the early 15th century but their popularity exploded by the 1850s when advances in printing made them more affordable. So what about cards today? Are we still sending them? Yes, we sure are.
Despite the ease of sending texts, emails or posting messages, card sales are booming, particularly among millennials who are buying more expensive, eco-consciously produced cards, from independent card makers. They are also expanding the market for non-traditional events and occasions such as Palentine's/Galentine's Day, mental health encouragement, and break ups and divorces. It is their way of connecting with people in tactile ways after spending so much of their lives on screens. Most of the start-up card companies are founded by millennials.
The sheer variety of cards available demonstrate that no matter the feeling we are trying to convey we can likely say, 'yes, there's a card for that.' From the silly to the sublime there are professional artists and writers who somehow capture it all.
According to psychologists, there are some real benefits to sending cards. When we select one for someone, our frontal lobes process thoughts and memories about the intended recipients. It strengthens bonds between people because it conveys the importance someone places on the relationship. Cards also share messages we may not be able to find the right words for.
It's such an important industry there are even awards given out each year honoring the best cards created. The Louie Awards, named for the lithographer credited with the birth of the U.S. Christmas card, have been handed out for over 30 years to "celebrate that moment when art, editorial, and design perfectly coalesce to bring these emotions to life and memorialize the numerous milestones in our lives." That's a lot to expect of a card, but somehow they are able to do just that.
We may not be nominated for any awards for cards we design, but the love and care expressed through each one is pretty special. As we hold them in our hands, display them on our desks, or place them around our home they represent special people and moments in our lives, and are far more meaningful than any award or plaque could ever be. That's my outlook.