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How to Write the Ultimate Holiday Greeting

Words change our relationships and self-perception—use them kindly

Each year, we purchase and sign an untold number of greeting cards. We may spend an hour perusing the aisle, reading card after card, in search of one that expresses just the right sentiment, with just the right image and tone. And while we may triumph in finding a card that captures our intent just right, it never quite connects to the recipient as meaningfully as our own words, in our own handwriting, would have.

There is a power lost amid the text-message culture of smartphones and social media. It’s the power of the human face, smiling instead of sending a smiley emoji; the power of the human voice, sharing warm words instead of typing them; and the power of words written in our own hand instead of a computer’s impersonal, if attractive, typography.

A written greeting offers the opportunity to write something deeply felt and honestly held. Human beings have a profound ability to see one another, to empathize and understand one another—most especially those we have had years to watch and know.

This precious personal history is the raw fuel for that rare opportunity a greeting card offers: the chance to handwrite something that truly represents what that person means to us. There are few things more meaningful that human beings can do for one another than to make clear that they honor and appreciate the other person’s presence in this world. When we share our unique view of another person’s singular presence, we offer our fellow beings more than recognition: We offer them a reminder of their lasting legacy of goodness in this world.

In a time when we are constantly being told we are not enough, when social media drives comparison-culture, and everywhere marketers beckon with products that promise to complete us, there is something essential and potent in sharing our honest regards. With that in mind, here are one human being’s thoughts on how to let someone else know that they are known, and needed, this holiday season.

First of all, there is no requirement for a perfect card. The card becomes what you put into it. This is where some thought comes in.


How often does one human being truly take the time to reflect on others, to consider someone’s presence in this world and their impact on our lives? The ultimate goal of whatever you write in that card is to show that you have taken this effort. You want to capture something essential, uplifting, and personal.

Take a moment to clear your mind of any other thoughts, and imagine your recipients clearly in your mind. There is no need to glorify or idealize them. You are not trying to flatter them or ingratiate yourself. You are trying to see them: see their qualities, their struggles, their pains, and their triumphs.

Each person is an incredible tale, and all but a few of us are all-but-ignored by the world we inhabit. But not your recipients. Not today. You know them. You know what they have done, what their strengths are, what they value.

We all have enough negative self-talk and delusional justifications, so there’s no need to attempt to draw out advice or offer excuses. This isn’t an effort at appeasing or elevating others. But you do want to look for their light, that unique hue they cast that illuminates a part of our reality like no other can.

For example, maybe you have an aunt who is pristine in her decor and appearance. What may seem superficial to some, you know to be a dignity of being, an attention to beauty that she brings with her everywhere she lives and breathes. There are too few people, and too few opportunities, to capture something like that on paper, and make it known to them that they are known.

So pause, think on them, and ask yourself what lesson their presence and history can deliver to this world. Ask yourself what they have shown you about yourself, when you measure your conduct against their best qualities. And then share with them whatever you have seen.

It can be as short as a sentence or as long as a paragraph. Reinforce what you consider to be some of their best attributes. Give them that encouragement we each need to strive toward our ultimate self, not through hollow platitudes, but through affirming to them their best qualities.

Remind them of something they do that others may no longer notice. Share with them a memory that affirms your perception of their most noble self. Offer them a reason to strengthen that best part of themselves by holding it up for them to see. And know, deep down, that you have the power to nourish another person’s soul.