Write It In A Card
Three summers ago, one of the students with whom I worked in a service organization was elected to a high leadership position. This was incredibly exciting and special for all of us invested in this young leader. After the convention, he posted online a very sweet tribute to me and his other advisor with a photo of the three of us and some very kind words. Of course I liked this in both senses – with a click on Facebook and in my heart because it made me feel good to read his genuine words about how we had helped him. In the end, 112 people liked his post.
However, there was a time in the past that something like this would have really embarrassed me and where I would have simply thought, “Write it in a card.” (Or a letter, or a note.) I remember yearbook ads and program ads in high school and beyond where parents arranged photos and words as tributes to their children. I never wanted my parents to do this for me. When I saw these ads, I used to think why couldn’t these parents just write their kids nice cards? I think part of why I thought this because I am a big card person. (I was raised this way.) I like to give them and receive them – and I like their permanency. You can put them on your bookshelf or bulletin board and then maybe later move them to a memory box where even later you can dig them out at any time, hold them in your hand and read through all of these touching, sincere and sweet words someone wrote about and to you. I like this. I also think I felt this way because sometimes I wondered for whom those ads and tributes were intended. Of course they were for their children – and there’s no question that it was because they loved them very much and were proud of them. I think though they also wanted everyone else to know and see it…because otherwise they likely would have written it in a card or a note…
Back to my example above: what about the fact that the photo and kind words were really only meant for 2 people yet 110 others were involved with it by seeing it, reading it and liking it (to say nothing of the others who may have seen it but did not click “like”)? Doesn’t this seem a little mixed up? What is the real intention behind these online tributes – or the ads that are still being created in yearbooks, programs or similar all across the country? Even at the school I lead, up until a few years ago, class ads graced the pages of our auction catalog: classes of parents arranging photos and words to honor their teachers. Is this necessary? (No! We stopped it and no longer do it…) In the case of the student’s tribute to his advisors, I believe this was genuine, and it was for us as well as a way to say something like, “I didn’t do this alone and I am proud that these two people helped me.” And that means something to me (and presumably to some of the 112 people who liked it).
I think ultimately though the fact that this did not embarrass me is not a good sign – in the sense that times have changed, and in this case, maybe not for the better. Sometimes it makes sense to share sentiment with others – the person for whom it’s intended as well as those close to him or her. Sometimes it inspires others, and that’s always good. Sometimes there are other reasons why it makes sense to share it with the world (and by “the world,” I mean your world). Other times though, it’s private and could best delivered in a card, note or letter – or even in an email, text or message – individually to the person you’re honoring or thinking about or remembering. I think we have to be careful in our culture of sharing and posting and liking that we are doing so for the right reasons – and not just because it’s easy or convenient or a quick way to get attention. And, if someone does not even have social media, why do we need to post a tribute there for that person? When I see that, my question now is often reframed to: “Are you also writing that in a card to that person?” I hope the answer is yes because someday that person will want to read it again and remember the feeling of the heartfelt words. And, at the very least, that person not on social media should know how you feel and that you took the time to express it. (Reach out!)
After this student posted this about me, I took a screen shot and printed it for my bulletin board. So many wonderful words are posted online – or even texted – regularly but if you don’t pause to copy / paste / screenshot / print / save, sometimes these beautiful words and sentiment can get lost.