I came across an advert for bespoke classroom Valentine’s Day cards. Remember those lovely flimsy boxes of 35-40 (yes, classes were that large once) cartoon festooned cards? The envelopes were whisper thin and there were always a couple of extra tossed into the cellophane wrapped box for the inevitable grade school penmanship mishaps. A grade school consumer could choose from a collection of cherubic animals holding hearts and coyly asking the recipient to “Be Mine” or from themed collections (e.g., Winnie The Pooh, Charlie Brown, Strawberry Shortcake, etc.) The themed collections always posed a minor quandary as to the intent of the card exchange. Should a card reflect solely the interests of the giver (and thereby be best supported by the sender’s favorite characters?) Or should a card be chosen to please the recipient (no matter how little is known about the recipient?)
When giving a gift (and what else is a greeting card but a written gift) it’s best to think of the recipient. You might feel most comfortable/joyful in a novelty shop, but a whoopee cushion for your humorless uncle is going to fall flat. The point of giving something to someone else is to think of what pleases him or her and act on that thought. (This is why re-gifting is merely passive-aggression in a pretty package.) No one wants to receive something (card, gift, etc.) that merely communications; “Phew, checked You off the list!” Ouch.
So what to make of the advert mentioned above. This offer, from a photo-processing company, was to convert a head shot of one’s tyke into fetching classroom Valentine’s Day cards. Now unless my child is Elizabeth Taylor (and her signed photo is serious money in the bank for a second-grader) or (G-d Forbid!) missing; why would I want her/his photo plastered on distributed
flyers cards? Does the parent (who would have to do this kind of high level card selection) honestly think’ “You know what would make my kid’s classmates really feel special?…” as they crop and save? Doubtful. My guess is that unlike the small child (with his/her developing sense of empathy and otherness) the parent thinks; “OMG how cute!” It’s not a crime to think one’s child is just precious, in fact the human race is dependent upon it. It’s just that it misses the point. We do things for other people to make other people feel good. That’s it. It really is that simple. Don’t believe me? Ask a child.