A Confession on Writing Christmas Cards (and Why Words Matter)

I’ve heard a lot of people say that confession is good for the soul, so here goes my own…

I’m terrible at sending Christmas cards.

Seriously.  I have a shoe box full of cards I bought practically a decade ago and I’m still sending out the same cards to the same people.  That means everyone (for the past 10 years, give or take) has gotten the same cheesy card with either a singing Santa or a reindeer flying with every computer radar known to mankind strapped to his antlers.

Yeah, it’s pretty sad.  What makes it even worse is I just sign my name, say Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, and send it out December 24.

That is, if I’m not running late.  (And I usually am…)

So my own terrible procrastinating self aside, I will say that the few Christmas cards I’ve gotten so far this year have been pretty unique from what I’ve gotten before.  You see, usually I get cards that are similar to what I send out (minus Singing Santa and Robo-Reindeer…their cards are much, much nicer…)  But this year, I’m getting hand-written letters (repeat-letters) in the cards.  Like people are writing me, telling me about how they’re doing and asking how I’ve been.

Reading the various stories from family and friends, no matter how little they write, has been…refreshing.  Exciting, even.  I actually care about reading the cards for once instead of glancing at it and sticking it to the wall with a piece of tape.  I know that sounds terrible of me not wanting to read a card when it just has a signature on it, but I’ll be honest-seeing a letter instead of just a name makes me connect to the person who sent the card better.  A story or conversation feels more connected, more intimate, and more fun.  It’s great to hear about all the crazy antics and happy moments that people have experienced in the past year, and it’s making me want to share my own stories with them.  But more than that, their words have inspired me and made me feel joy during an otherwise stressful time of year.

Reading these Christmas letters has made me realize just how powerful-and special-words are.  It’s great to get a Christmas card with just a name-a person simply sending a card shows they care and are thinking of you this holiday season.  But there’s something about words that make a difference.  Words can encourage, can bring joy, can bring healing.  Words can lift up and build.  Words can even save a life and change history.  We often don’t think of little cards or notes (and emails and texts!) carrying weight in our lives, but I would argue that they do.  Have you ever had a bad day only to have someone cheer you up with a joke?  Have you ever felt alone only to get a letter from someone saying that they were there for you?  Have you ever felt so discouraged you felt like giving up only to have someone say to keep going, you can do it?

Words have done a lot of damage to people.  I’m sure all of us can think back on a moment when someone said something mean or wrote something terrible about us.  But just as words can destroy, words can also heal.  It may not be in a Christmas card or a letter, but any form of words-whether it’s a text, in a chat, on the phone, or even in a story, words can make a difference in the lives of others.