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Write your Christmas cards now

Posted on November 15, 2021

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Oliver Hedgepeth

Oliver Hedgepeth

We wrote 50 Christmas cards this past weekend, all to give our granddaughter, Ashley, to distribute.

These cards are for senior citizens who live alone in apartments or group homes. But, when their children do not come around to visit for several months or years, it can get to be a bit lonely. And sad. I know.

We have some neighbors from around Fleming Stadium who have moved into assisted living, often not at their own request. So, we visit those we know as often as we can. But there are too many. You can help boost their Christmas spirit, as we hope we have.

Ashley manages an apartment complex in Chesterfield, Virginia, and has asked her residents and friends and relatives to write a Christmas card to a “new friend.” We have done that very thing. It did take Elizabeth and me three days last week to help.

Like you, maybe, we have a grocery bag full of unsolicited end-of-year Christmas cards from charities, asking for donations. And, of course, in mid-December when cards are on clearance, we grab a few boxes. We now have so many we will never use them all. So, along came Ashley with this exciting idea.

What you do now is grab one of those boxes of Christmas cards, never opened. Then on the front of each envelope, write something like this: “Greetings, my new friend, and Merry Christmas.” Or “Hello, new friend. What a wonderful time of the year.”

On the card itself, take the time to think about what you would say besides, “Merry Christmas.” Think about people in their 70s, 80s, 90s or older. They are living out the good life in a building with people who really care for their welfare and happiness. Maybe their children live too far to visit, or maybe all their friends have died and now they are lonely.

For several years, I was a caller who phoned 25 older citizens weekly. I would call them on Fridays and ask what was going on and what they had eaten for breakfast. I might ask those who read the paper about the top story they were excited or worried about.

I listened. I always thought of asking a question they could answer.

Now, for these Christmas cards, do the same. For instance, ask them what their favorite memory of Christmas was when they were 10 or 12 years old. Ask their favorite food their mom cooked at  Christmas dinner. Tell them something about yourself. Tell them you are having Christmas at your daughter’s or son’s house this year. Ask if they did that later in life.

The problem we are solving is simple. Many of these seniors have no one coming for Christmas or even a card coming from any family member.

A sad part I learned from the one senior place I called was that those seniors had children and grandchildren living just a few miles away. But no one had visited them in several years. You are their new “friend.”

If you fear being contacted by these lonely people, sign your card “Merry Christmas” and just give your first name. But when you drop off your envelopes at the front desk of the senior home, do let the person there know where you live.

Why? Because you are going to add one more sentence. You should write, “What do you think of this?” following one of those sentences about some topic. Or write just above or below your signature, “Write me a note on how you are doing.”

You are in for a treat following Christmas. You are in for a feeling that is hard to get for many people.

And when you decide to write these Christmas cards for your “new friends,” don’t forget to ask your children to do the same. It’s a great feeling you’re not only giving, but getting in return.

Oliver Hedgepeth, a native Wilsonian, is a professor of logistics who is teaching online at the American Military University. Email him at blh4835@gmail.com.

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