During the holidays, I took some time to read the Christmas cards and letters we received this year. The custom of sending Christmas cards to share highlights of the past year seems to be waning some as the number we received (and, frankly, send) has decreased over the years. Nonetheless, I made a few observations about these cards and letters that I thought might be worth sharing. I would expect that many of you have observed similar things and had the same thoughts, at one time or another. So, here are my observations (all of the examples I use below are true, believe it or not):
- There are some things that simply do not need to be shared – We receive one letter every year that always amazes us. In it, this family takes several pages to describe the excruciating details of their health adventures. For example, one year, we heard about how many times “Mother” had a rash on her back. They talked about visits to specialists to diagnose rare diseases and we received a detailed history of the location, size, and shapes of moles removed for the year. Really? Who in their right mind would ever think that this information should be included in a Christmas letter sent to dozens of people? Can we keep it simple and at a very high level? (I hope I didn’t catch any of you doing this.)
- Honestly, no one wants to hear about your fabulous vacations or new convertible – I love this one! I have actually seen individuals write Christmas letters to “friends” that they know have been without a job for months and talk about their fabulous vacation to Europe or their new sports car that “they only use on sunny days.” Can you not think about what you are writing? Wow! When I get one of these, I want to write back something like, “Well, this was another rough year. I am hoping to get my teeth back soon, we eat oatmeal for every meal, and we give blood often just to get the cookies they give away.” Oh, well….
- We love hearing that your kids are doing well, but hold back on the hype, please – We receive one letter from a family that we fight over. Literally, when we get their letter in the mail, my wife and I fight to read it first! One year, they talked about their “lean, mean, straight A machine..” son. We also hear how their other son “has been told by many that he might be the most wonderful person ever born.” Can you believe someone would actually write that? Maybe you can see why we fight over that one!
- Hearing from many of you brings back wonderful, happy memories – On the other hand, some of these letters and cards bring me to tears. They help me remember some of the happiest times of my life. I think of one friend in Michigan that died a couple years ago. She was a gem and spent her entire life serving others. But, she also provided some of the funniest memories of my life. I’m almost laughing out loud right now just thinking about one incident involving Mary. I miss her! I think of friends that I haven’t seen in 10 or 20 years. I remember times when their kids were playing with ours. Truly, these letters are worth reading and the memories are worth having.
- Hearing from you inspires me to take much overdue action – And, the letters I have read this year are inspiring me to action. I haven’t seen one of my friends in a few years. He has probably made me laugh more than any other single person in my life. He had me laughing again over the holidays when I called him. In 2016, I am committed to visiting him. There are others that I have promised myself to write, call, or see. I might not have another chance.
So, did you have any of these same reactions reading letters and cards you received this past season? I would also say that each of us has a friend or two or ten that we need to connect with in a more consistent way. Is there a friend here that you need to take to lunch? Let’s not someday regret losing time with someone that cares for us or that we have befriended.
Have a great and terrific first new workday of 2016! Let’s make this “our best year yet!”