Arts and Letters…and Quarantine

Heart in envelope

This year has been exceptionally tough for humanity, and it’s only July.

COVID-19 has been infecting and killing people around the world at alarming rates, and healthcare systems are exceeding their capacity. Entire segments of the business and nonprofit world are imploding, and unemployment is through the roof. Schooling is upended. The deep fault lines in our social institutions are being laid bare, and the foundations of democracy and civil rights are under siege. Venturing outside our homes can carry significant safety risks for ourselves and others.

Stressful much?

In the midst of all this social upheaval are multitudes of individual crises. Within my immediate circle of friends alone, the past half-year has seen many losses — of lives, livelihoods, long-term relationships, physical and mental health, and personal freedom.

But it’s not all gloom and doom. Within my friendship circle, there have also been many gains — births, new jobs and promotions, stronger bonds with loved ones, rekindled connections, improvements in health conditions, moves to better living spaces or upgrades to existing ones, and unprecedented opportunities for self-discovery and care.

Thankfully, lots of people are supporting the causes and communities they value with their time, talent, and resources. Individuals and organizations are becoming more thoughtful about their words and actions, and they are reexamining their beliefs and practices, expressing gratitude more frequently and in new ways, and taking critical steps toward building healthier habits. Folks are stepping up and rising to a variety of unprecedented challenges.

Sending messages of encouragement, sympathy, appreciation, congratulations, and love is a personal and cost-effective way to show support in the best and worst of times — and anytime in between. Particularly during this era of physical separation from others, a surprise piece of personal mail from you strengthens your presence in someone else’s life in spirit, if not necessarily in the flesh.

Full-service card retailer Sent-Well, whose unique business model includes hand-writing and mailing cards in addition to selling them, issued a creative call to action in its April blog post: “Social distancing doesn’t have to mean emotional distancing…Right now, we are all craving a little connection and companionship -– why not send a card to a friend, family member, or someone out there on the front lines of this fight?…The healthcare workers, EMTs, police, and firefighters. The USPS, UPS, FEDEX, and Amazon drivers. The grocery story clerks, gas station attendants, and other essential workers out there…Why not send a card to thank them?”

Just last year, a New York Times advice column extolled the virtues of handwritten cards, suggesting that “[t]he beauty of writing a card results in more meaning and thought being put into what you’re trying to say. Not unlike that first page of your new notebook where the neatest handwriting is usually found, a card makes every word count…Sometimes a simple note that says you’re thinking of someone can mean the world.”

The delivery of a physical card or note is an oasis in a vast desert of junk mail and bills. Many grocery stores and pharmacies carry stationery and postage stamps, which are also widely available online. An artful card or specially decorated/textured sheet of paper can be a wonder to behold and hold.

But even if all you can manage is a page from an old notebook, that will suffice, because ultimately what counts most is what you say. Heartfelt emails can also bring delight to their recipients.

I hope you’ll join me on my continuing quest to spread hope, joy, and beauty one personal message at a time.

Published by clairesterling

Please see my personal website at for information about me.

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