Dawn Kessinger: Costly cards: What’s a smile worth?

By Dawn Kessinger - Guest Columnist

I have a greeting card sitting on top of one of the bookcases in my library. On the front is a grocery store aisle with full shelves of toilet paper that stretches back as far as the eye can see. A woman wearing a polka-dotted skirt stands in the center of the aisle with packages of toilet paper in her arms, piled so high you can’t see her face.

When you open the card, it reads, “Same CRAP. Different day. Hang in there.” There’s an unraveling roll of toilet paper pictured. I’ve had this card for a long time – years before the coronavirus pandemic and the toilet paper shortage. But I kept and displayed the card because at the time, I was going through a difficult time at work, and I was afraid I was going to lose my job. The crap card my mom sent made me smile, and the stress I was feeling inched back from its attack.

While receiving cards always brightens my day, I really enjoy choosing, penning something fun or meaningful inside and sending cards. Sometimes it’s tough picking out a card that manages to capture the right thought or tone. Usually, there is a card out there that comes close to expressing something that feels right, but even when you can’t quite find what you’re looking for, writing a personal note can make up for what the card lacks.

For more than a year after my grandma died, I managed somehow to find a different card to send to my mom every week. It became a challenging but important and frequently entertaining mission to find cards for Mom. I sought cards that might make her smile or cards to let her know she’s beautiful and appreciated. I went everywhere, searching for the fresh, the unique, the funny and the weird, in all kinds of different stores, from the usual Hallmark stores to drug stores, hardware stores and groceries.

Yes, I take my card-choosing (and sending) seriously. If you get a card from me, you should know you make my heart sing and my brain dance. And you should not turn the card over and look at the price on the back! My mother, after a year of receiving cards, but before I was ready to quit sending them, told me, “Will you stop sending me cards every week? They’re too expensive!”

I understand what my mom is saying. Most cards seem a bit pricey; I could buy four or five ice cream cones for the same price as one card! But how do you put a price on someone’s smile? How do you know the value of coaxing a smile from someone who was sad, or discouraged, or feeling rotten before he or she opened your card?

I would spend all I have, maybe minus the cost of one ice cream cone, to make my mom – or my dad, or a friend – feel even a little bit better than they felt before receiving my card.

Also, the price one pays for a card doesn’t take into consideration how many times the recipient looks at it. Who knows, when a card is sent, if there will be only one glance, one smile, one brighter day – or if there will be many times that eyes sparkle and lips curve upward when the card gets pulled off the bookshelf and enjoyed again?

I have a favorite card or two that I’ve looked at and read countless times. Even though I know I haven’t missed any details and nothing new is going to leap out at me the 10th time I open the card, I still enjoy looking at the design, running my fingers over the raised parts of it, reading the card’s message in fancy, shiny script and smiling at the handwritten words and signature at the bottom.

So, sure, cards can be costly, but they send such priceless messages of care, humor and encouragement. The smiles and the brightened days those cards inspire are well worth the price.


By Dawn Kessinger

Guest Columnist

Dawn Kessinger lives in Lima.

Dawn Kessinger lives in Lima.

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