Mail a Card…it’s a Great Christmas Gift

Responses to the holiday season and the customary cards that accompany it tend to fall at either end of the spectrum. Some cringe at the onslaught of colorful cardstock cramming into their mailbox, others take little delight in the idea of writing, addressing, licking, stamping, sorting, stuffing, and finally sending all of their holiday correspondence, but I can also think of one other response to a Christmas card that shows it truly can be one of the best Christmas presents.

Christmas cards often include multiple generations in their story from sender to recipient. The elderly can receive them from children, grandchildren, and extended family sometimes scattered around the globe. Parents retrieve them from the mailbox and find spangled, glue sodden construction paper cutout classroom projects from their children offering Christmas greetings. Other adults can discover the yearly update from a distanced sibling or family member with information and pictures of events from the year that serve to share lives and build connection with new stories that show a picture of the year ranging from tragic to humorous and heartwarming.

In many ways, a letter is the most personal mode of long distance communication. We treasure personal correspondence like Christmas letters because they take time and effort – not only to sit and write but also to craft and create something unique that the other person will enjoy reading. Oftentimes we let Hallmark craft these clever anecdotes or Biblical saying for us in beautiful gold script along with a picture that epitomizes the holiday spirit.

While the time and effort put into a letter can increase its worth, perfection does not dictate satisfaction and enjoyment. As with some oddities in life, it can be the flaws that make cards great. Poor grammar and imperfect language accompanied by a child’s scrawl at the bottom of the page can be as lovely as that same gold script telling of live and peace for all mankind. The handprint of a two-year-old niece and granddaughter carries a personal message of love that card companies fail to duplicate.

Finally, here is your Christmas gift from us – all this pleasure and family joy is nearly entirely free! Forty-five cents will suffice to send a holiday gift that can brighten a day and bring joy in the cold, harsh, snowy weather. And as its destination is reached, you can rest assured, you have brought a sparkle of joy to another’s life with one of the best Christmas gifts around.

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What My Time as a Junior has Meant to Me

(This was written my presidential year on the national board for the NRLCA Juniors organization. It was published in the National Rural Carrier’s Association’s national magazine The National Rural Carrier.)

I believe that over the years of its existence, the Juniors have been a training ground for leadership – for myself and others. The very structure that organizes a board of fourteen to twenty-one year-olds offers a ladder of instruction, learning, and role models. This is what every former Junior president has meant when reflecting on their time in the Juniors. We list numerous experiences and impressive resumes built while away from convention, and so often we attribute these credentials to our experience on the board.

The more that I look back over my fourteen years of Nationals, the more change I can see in myself and my friends from the years. When I entered college, I decided to dive in. No hesitancy, no bashfulness. I was going to be myself and win people over with who I genuinely was. I had so often heard, “College is what you make of it,” and let me tell you: it was true. I have enjoyed my time in school immensely. I have also realized that this motto can be applied to nearly all areas of life – the Juniors more than most.

I do not see the question here to be, if the Junior board attracts students whose lives already display leadership qualities or if these are qualities developed over time as the they experience life through the framework of being on the board? If any objectivity is possible, let it be so when I say that the Juniors have had a long history of impressive presidents and charismatic board members. Those you have seen in the past, and I certainty hope in the future, are the cream of the crop. Public speaking, the ability to confer with higher ranking adults, planning, organization, professionalism, and group management are not skills usually found in fourteen through 16 year olds. Yet every year, the winner of the majority vote steps up to their spot in the batting order and to take their place on the board. There exits a system of four years of training to model and instill in them the qualities necessary for a leadership position such as Junior President.

The system begins its work, and one year later we return with a benefit you Association and Auxiliary members do not have. We grow – literally and figuratively. The amount of maturation and change I have seen in my peers over the years is astounding.

The system works, but despite its long-standing record there exists a flaw. It relies on a flawed people to make it function. No board member is perfect, and indeed one perfect board member could not make the board function on their own. It takes a considerable amount of effort from each seat. Fortunately, there are those who have gone before to show us the way.

I have enjoyed being a part of this organization and system since my childhood. Now, at twenty-one I will soon be saying goodbye to the Juniors – a natural part of the experience and one we Juniors are well accustomed to performing. This “Thank you” is said to grandparent, parent, and child alike, for your participation year after year. I will see you one more time in Grapevine. Thank you for the effort you put into the union and particularly the Juniors every year. Because after all, the Junior program is what you make of it.

“It’s a Dangerous Business…”

It is the duty of every Spring Arbor University Communication student before graduation to have reached the climax of their undergraduate career and claim the title “credible, creative Christian professional.” That is the goal of this “mass mediated artifact” or as I see it an expanded online resume.

Take what you will – just know that I would prefer to buy you coffee and sit down together rather than have you interact with me solely through this venue.  However, that is not the world I have chosen or, indeed, the world as a whole.  We live in a technological society full of transformative communication.  I have fought it as long as I could, but now that I enter the world of professionalism I choose to dive in head first into this dangerous pool of internet presence.

I hope you enjoy my offering.

(Credit to J. R. R. Tolkien – The Fellowship of the Ring for the title.)