We received a wedding invitation from a young couple – the son of a long-time friend and his fiancée. We aren’t going to be able to go to the ceremony, so I thought it would be nice to send an engagement card. I went to the Hallmark part of Westlake and started looking for one that was pretty and interesting and not too soupy or mushy. I was short on time, so I picked one that sported one of my favorite colors, and headed home to the computer. I figured that regardless of the card’s message, I would add a personal note, so the card would be fine.

A couple of days later, I pulled out the card and prepared to write a note, then send it. Imagine my surprise when I realized that the cover of the card was not just a pretty color, it was a caricature of two mermaids wearing that pretty color. I had picked up a card for a same-sex engagement. Something told me that Drew wasn’t going to cotton to being thought of as a mermaid. I bought another card.

Then I started thinking about the way things have changed over the past several years, and how those changes are reflected in, of all things, our greeting cards. We can now buy engagement and wedding cards for same-sex couples. We can buy sympathy cards for the loss of a pet. An entire line of Hallmark cards is written in Spanish. Another line, Mahogany, is written for and uses photos of African Americans. The cards written specifically with Christian themes and using scripture is denoted with a small cross. Cards are available to send to people who are undergoing cancer treatments or who have received devastating medical diagnoses. We can buy cards for people who have adopted a baby.

Being able to send people these kinds of messages is, I believe, a good thing. For instance, it wasn’t too long ago that if someone adopted a baby, people just didn’t talk about it. It wasn’t a long time ago when we didn’t recognize that people of different ethnic backgrounds have different cultures and celebrate things that might not be celebrated in Caucasian culture. Over only the past few years have we begun to accept that not everyone speaks English. And certainly, it’s been only over the past few years that people have been able to marry who they want to marry, whether that is a person of the same or opposite gender.

Regardless of how anyone feels about these obvious social changes, they have just been hiding in front of us all along. For instance, a while back, some parents tried to keep from their adopted children that they were, in fact, adopted, although a more definite statement of love for a child is hard to find. Additionally, generally speaking, when a family has immigrated to the United States from a country where English is not the native tongue, it has taken about three generations for that family to become “Americanized,” as least as far as language according to a UCLA study , but we have not acknowledged it in the past.

Certainly, some people have lived their lives by talking about and through the guidance of Bible scripture, and others have suffered greatly at the loss of a pet. Cancer treatments and bad medical diagnoses have always been hard. And some Americans have had to be silent about their sexuality and who they love because to talk about it or demonstrate it has been wholly unacceptable. 

I’m sure we have all known people in difficult circumstances, but we probably haven’t known what to say to them. After all, not everyone knows exactly the right thing to say, and even writing a note that hits the right marks is difficult. Now, greeting card companies have made that just a little easier. I like that we can acknowledge things that we may have been uncomfortable with – or may have tried to hide – in the past. I like to think that it means we all may become nicer to each other. After all, none of us is perfect, and it’s better to receive support than criticism – even if it does cost $4.99.

 

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