IBJOpinion

HETRICK: Sending all-seasons' greetings in a newfangled way

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share
Bruce Hetrick

During the holiday season, I used to love going to the mailbox. As my family moved from Lafayette to Omaha to Fort Wayne to Colorado Springs to Hartford to Tucson to Zionsville, the Christmas cards followed my parents from job to job, neighborhood to neighborhood, city to city.

When I established my own household and added twin sons, the practice was much the same.

Sometimes, the holiday cards carried simple Hallmark sentiments and a signature. More often, there was a brief handwritten note.

Sometimes, there were Kodak moments of families or couples, kids or grandkids, nieces or nephews. Other times, there were long typewritten letters.

As much as any religious or spiritual sentiment, the common denominator of these season’s greetings was a desire to keep in touch—a once-a-year message that said, “We’re still here,” or, “Thinking of you,” or “We miss seeing you,” or “Let’s get together soon.”

Often, the holiday cards brought news—of births and deaths, promotions and layoffs, successes and struggles.

Viewing the pictures over the years, one could watch once-cute kids transition through geeky adolescence, then emerge as adults.

Reading the annual letters, one could follow journeys near and far, literal and emotional, tragic and triumphant.

My favorite holiday cards were from people I knew—aunts and uncles, cousins I’d not seen for a while, old neighbors from places past.

For many years, some of my elementary school teachers sent cards with news of students my parents or I had known. My elementary school principal sent cards, notes and news clippings well into her 90s.

Cards from people I didn’t know served as conversation starters—a chance to ask my parents who these people were, how they’d met, what their connection was to my dad’s business or to our family.

Nowadays, I still go to the mailbox. But the flow of holiday greeting cards has slowed to a trickle.

Many of those that arrive aren’t from friends and family at all. They’re from people my wife and I do business with during the year—bankers and brokers, grocers and dry cleaners, hardware stores and newspaper carriers.

Mostly, however, our mailbox is full of sales pitches: catalogs from merchants wanting us to buy things. Coupons from retailers wanting us to buy things for less. Postcards from businesses here in Indianapolis or somewhere in cyberspace wanting us to buy things on sale “for three days only” or “this weekend only” or “until midnight Saturday.”

Then, there are sales pitches from good causes seeking year-end donations. These arrive by the dozens—from arts groups and education groups, disease groups and human service groups, animal protection groups and civic groups, historic groups and save-the-planet groups, urban groups and nature groups, protect-our-rights groups and protect-our-children groups, faith groups and secular groups, conservative groups and liberal groups.

They all want our money.

They all need our money.

They all promise year-end tax breaks and—oh, by the way—the good feeling of giving to others during this season of sharing.

Between the sales pitches and the charity pitches, our mailbox says: “Spend money,” and, “Give money away.”

Aside from advertising copy, it rarely says, “Happy Holidays,” or “Season’s Greetings” or “Joyous Noel.”

Judging strictly by the mailbox, Linus might say of spending money, “And that’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”

But this isn’t strictly a regret-filled nostalgia column. For romantic as it may be, that old-fashioned reliance on once-a-year exchanges of letters, photos and greeting cards has been surpassed by the instantaneous, ubiquitous and inexpensive world of social media.

Thanks to minute-by-minute Facebook and Twitter reports on what my friends’ and relatives’ children are doing, eating, playing, reading, suffering and achieving, I need no longer wait for an annual recap.

Thanks to photo and video sharing via Instagram, FlickR, YouTube, et al., I no longer need to imagine what my friends and their children look like. I can see and hear them. In motion. In stills. In flash mobs. In sports apparel. In the school play. In Gangnam Style.

Thanks to instant messaging, text and Skype, I need no longer trek to the mailbox at all—in December or any other time. I can hop online and talk to Andy in Illinois, Gene in South Bend, Steve in Kuwait, Angie in Cairo, Sara in London, Tom in Connecticut, Jean in Florida, Dawn in Fort Wayne, Zach in Brooklyn, Austin in Virginia, or Mary Ann around the corner.

With all that at our fingertips, it’s no wonder the neighborhood card shop went out of business.

No wonder the U.S. Postal Service is struggling.

No wonder school systems are dropping handwriting from the curriculum.

No wonder I lament the loss of old-fashioned season’s greetings, but cherish the alternative of all-season greetings, connections and interaction.

Is Santa Claus online?•

__________

Hetrick is an Indianapolis-based writer, speaker and public relations consultant. His column appears twice a month. He can be reached at bhetrick@ibj.com.

ADVERTISEMENT

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. I had read earlier this spring that Noodles & Co was going to open in the Fishers Marketplace (which is SR 37 and 131st St, not 141st St, just FYI). Any word on that? Also, do you happen to know what is being built in Carmel at Pennsylvania and Old Meridian? May just be an office building but I'm not sure.

  2. I'm sorry, but you are flat out wrong. There are few tracks in the world with the history of IMS and probably NO OTHER as widely known and recognized. I don't care what you think about the stat of Indy Car racing, these are pretty hard things to dispute.

  3. Also wondering if there is an update on the Brockway Pub-Danny Boy restaurant/taproom that was planned for the village as well?

  4. Why does the majority get to trample on the rights of the minority? You do realize that banning gay marriage does not rid the world of gay people, right? They are still going to be around and they are still going to continue to exist. The best way to get it all out of the spotlight? LEGALIZE IT! If gay marriage is legal, they will get to stop trying to push for it and you will get to stop seeing it all over the news. Why do Christians get to decide what is moral?? Why do you get to push your religion on others? How would legalizing gay marriage expose their lifestyle to your children? By the way, their lifestyle is going to continue whether gay marriage is legalized or not. It's been legal in Canada for quite a while now and they seem to be doing just fine. What about actual rules handed down by God? What about not working on Sundays? What about obeying your parents? What about adultery? These are in the 10 Commandments, the most important of God's rules. Yet they are all perfectly legal. What about divorce? Only God is allowed to dissolve a marriage so why don't you work hard to get divorce banned? Why do you get to pick and choose the parts of the Bible you care about?

  5. Look at the bright side. With the new Lowe's call center, that means 1000 jobs at $10 bucks an hour. IMS has to be drooling over all that disposable income. If those employees can save all their extra money after bills, in five years they can go to the race LIVE. Can you say attendance boost?

ADVERTISEMENT