It’s In The Cards

The volume of Christmas cards coming into our home has gone way down, year after year, replaced by online greetings, which are now the norm.

And why not? They’re much more convenient and cost-effective, although I kinda miss the look of our credenza piled high with cards on display, all of them seeming to say You Have Friends. Christmas-Card-300x199That was always very reassuring and cheery. So now my laptop sits on the barren credenza, screen up, with a message saying Trust Me, People Do Like You. Click Here for Proof. It’s not the same, but
it’s something.

And it is the greeting that counts, after all, not so much the way it’s delivered. Sucker that I am for all things Christmas, I read all of them carefully, then reminisce about whoever they’re from, and really, I treasure them. It’s like an annual report on who’s still in my life; not a completely accurate one, I know, since plenty of people send Christmas greetings to people they barely know. Still, when I get the greetings and updates from old friends, it gets me thinking about what kind of friend I’ve been. Because of that, a year never passes without me realizing three things about relationships: They need to be attained, strengthened or corrected.

In my single years I got very few Christmas cards, which at the time reminded me I had many casual acquaintances but few friends. That’s not to say I wasn’t social, at least in the technical sense. I seldom wanted for dates or weekend plans, and invitations to parties were pretty regular. But social and connected are very different things, and looking back on those years I remember the perpetual loneliness of an unconnected life. I simply didn’t take the time to invest in relationships, a fact I was reminded of each Winter when others huddled together for Christmas celebration and I, too proud to admit I had little going by way of family or close friends, kept to myself. Relationships needed to be attained, and the fact that they hadn’t been was no one’s fault but my own.

The picture’s very different know, praise God. My family and I are blessed with amazing friendships that span decades, and I can’t imagine our lives without them. So attaining relationships isn’t really an issue. A more current problem I see is the need to strengthen the relationships that are in place.

Case in point: I get a seasonal greeting from a friend and say out loud, “Oh, great hearing from him, he means so much to me!” then realize it’s been months since I bothered to pick up the phone/e-mail/text and catch up with the guy. And with all the means of communication at our disposal, that’s inexcusable. Friends aren’t the frosting on the cake, nor even the cake itself. They’re the meat and potatoes, basic necessities that ought never to be taken for granted. Relationships with the people we’re honored to have as friends need to be strengthened.

But sometimes, you get that “Hmmm, something’s out of joint” feeling about people. That’s when you realize some relationships have diminished because something’s wrong, something that’s been unaddressed and avoided. I’d be a fool to think I could have relationships without occasional tension, and this is a season that often brings those tensions to the surface. Usually, they’re caused by something we need to confront, or something on our end we need to acknowledge and apologize for.

Frankly, I’m better at apologizing than confronting. It’s not too hard to say I’m wrong. But to say you’re wrong? Too messy; too weird. But I know by now that if a good friend has wronged me in a significant way, I can hardly say I value the friendship if I won’t even bother to speak up about whatever’s hurting it. So maybe this season calls for correcting what’s been allowed to drift in the wrong direction. That, too, speaks of love and connection.

Whatever the case, this is when we read our cards with an eye towards the value of the bonds we have with the Senders. As the Receivers, let’s be sure we’re attaining, strengthening or correcting as needed. That’s the year round stuff of life, remembered in Winter, but needed month by month, lifetime by lifetime.


    • Well as brothers go, I could sure do worse. Hope you’re havin’ a great Christmas season Mitch! So hi to Mom.

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