Today as I opened the door to retrieve my mail from my mailbox, I dreaded the bills and junk mail that were most likely awaiting me. One more medical bill that required a lengthy phone call…One more form from my Long-Term Disability company needing my signature so they can determine if I’m still disabled in their eyes…One more flyer filled with coupons to stores I’d never dream of shopping at…And then I noticed an actual piece of mail with my Aunt Janice’s address label on it from Catoosa, Oklahoma. You remember the original purpose of the U.S. Postal Service, right? As the first official Postmaster General in 1775, Benjamin Franklin wanted people to have the ability to send a letter to a loved one or a message regarding business matters. In addition, it was essential to be able to disseminate information in a timely manner to the 13 colonies regarding our nation’s battles throughout the 18th Century. In essence, it was all about communicating about important matters.
Excited about opening the envelope I now held in my hand, I was sure it was going to be a follow-up to the quality time my aunt and I got to spend together when she visited in August. But she had already done that in my birthday card a couple weeks ago. What did she have left to say?
We are praying for you for relief of your chronic pain.
From ladies in Sunday School at 1st Baptist Church, Rolling Hills
When I saw what they had written, I immediately began to cry. This was what I’d been waiting for ever since I was diagnosed with my Cervical Dystonia, or at the very least, when I finally had to go on Long-Term Disability and leave my job. But I’d always expected it would be sent to me by people who had known me my entire life…an acknowledgement from relatives who’ve never said one word to me about my disability in 5 years. Or that card I had been waiting for that would be signed by a group of co-workers when I wasn’t able to return to work back in March of 2013…Admitting that I felt invisible to large groups of people who were and still are a part of my life barely begins to describe how let down one can feel. To act as a collective is a very powerful thing! And to NOT act as a collective or as an individual is even more hurtful.
But today, I got that card…from thirteen women at my aunt’s church, each of whom added their unique signature. None of these people know me, and I have never met any of them. Thirteen women who cared enough to send the message that they were praying for me. They were praying for me! Do you know how heartwarming it is to receive that kind of gift from people who have no idea who you are? While I’m sure my aunt told them about me and why she was concerned, this act says so much about the kind of people they are: compassionate, caring, loving, and filled with empathy. And it says a lot about my aunt, who I am so grateful I’ve gotten to spend more time with over the past few years. With her living in Oklahoma my entire life and me being in the Midwest, it wasn’t always that way simply because we never saw one another. To have her share her concern for me with her friends means the world to me. It really feels good to know that there is a group of strong women in Rolling Hills, Oklahoma, who are keeping me in their thoughts and prayers. This is what I’ve been waiting for all along.
MY HOPES: If you know someone who has been diagnosed with a chronic or terminal illness or is having a difficult time with any other part of their lives, my hope is that you’ll send that person a card. An e-mail or Facebook message is nice to get, but it can’t replace the thought that goes into giving or sending an actual card. The gift of receiving something tangible, not only to hold onto, but also to put up around the house is an important reminder to us that there are people out there who care. “Gone but not forgotten”, right? If it’s someone from your job, pass the card around and ask everyone to add their own message. And if it’s someone from your family, wouldn’t it be nice to send a card from the entire immediate family? If that’s not possible, then encourage those family members to send their own card.
For me, my hope is to continue to find ways to show different people I care every day. The other day at church, I discovered a basket filled with cards and pens. To the right of the basket was a sheet containing the names and addresses of 5 church members and why they are in our thoughts and prayers. Although I didn’t know any of them, I chose to write a message to a woman who had recently lost her father and her stepfather. I addressed the envelope and placed it in the second basket, the one that will take my card to the next step of having someone attach postage before giving it to the mail carrier.
What if we had something like this at our jobs? Our family gatherings? Our activities that evolve around our passions where we see the same people on a fairly regular basis? Our __________________ (add whatever you’d like)? It would be so easy to get cards and stamps donated and to have them sitting out where people would see them, next to a list of people who are needing extra support. What are some simple ways we can show others they are visible? No one should have to endure the pain of feeling invisible in this world, so why do some people treat others that way? Deep down, it really hurts, and I will never understand why some family members, extended family members, friends, colleagues and acquaintances act in this way. I know I’m not alone in this feeling, so let’s be better and do better to extend this notion of community beyond ourselves.