When my boys were quite small and all my energy was spent on keeping them alive a family friend got cancer. She lived in another state so I couldn’t visit, I couldn’t make food for her family or clean her house. All I could do was pray. I believe in the power of prayer but let’s face it, prayer can be wanting. I felt I had to do something to let her know I was rooting for her. I was thinking about her. I was praying for her.
One morning I grabbed a cup of coffee at my favorite local café when I saw a stack of free postcards, a sort of business card advertising the café. I grabbed a couple. At home I sat down and jotted a few lines on the postcard for my friend. It didn’t take much to fill it and it didn’t take much time…but it made me feel better. So I put a note on my calendar to send her one every Friday.
I started noticing free postcards at other locations and of course inexpensive ones everywhere. I started using them. Often. To reach out when I missed a friend. To say thank you to those who lent a helping hand or sent a treat. Even when I was only sleeping a few hours a night tending to my children, a postcard was something I could handle.
Sometimes I do write “thinking of you” or “praying for you” but someone like my friend with cancer didn’t want to hear that every week. Sometimes I would write down a quote I connected with that week or I would share a highlight from the week, our own private Facebook status. It doesn’t take much to connect, sometimes just making an effort.
I have continued this practice. It is a kind of message in a bottle in reverse. I send my message out to someone who I think might need it. I don’t expect anything in return.
I have used this tactic for when I am feeling insecure or sad about a relationship with a bad friend. You know those moments, when you dwell on how shitty that person is, instead of concentrating on these great relationships you have? I stop myself when these obsessive thoughts come on and a grab two postcards. For every shitty friend out there, there are at least two good ones. So I grab a postcard, write down one of the things I love about them or a funny memory and send it on its way. I spend the energy strengthening a friendship instead of fixating on the dysfunctional one.
This ritual has retrained my thinking. It’s helped me learn not to let these thoughts of helplessness consume me. I send them out. Friends have followed suit and send me random postcards as thank yous, as hellos, sharing their travels, until my fridge is covered and I am reminded of the goodness of life.
The friend with cancer fought for over a year and a half but cancer won. When she was having a good day she’d pop me an email thanking me for the postcards. Laughing at a memory or sharing her thoughts on a quote. We were able to reconnect more than we would have had I not sent the postcards. When she died, she knew that I loved her and that I appreciated her. She had a stack of over 50 postcards telling her a piece of our story.
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