Happiness, Hope, and Greeting Cards

I’ve always been a pretty jolly person. People in the past have described me as “smiley.” I’ve lived a pretty comfortable life in a small rural town in Virginia with an incredible support system that always balanced discipline and fun. It was just last year around this time that I began feeling empty and somewhat useless. It was odd because I had everything I had ever wanted:  An amazing husband, two dogs, my first home, family support, great job, etc. There was something missing and I couldn’t put my finger on it.

I was living in a social climate where negativity and hatred preyed upon happiness and kindness. This negativity was seeping from our media into the minds of folks around me and I didn’t understand, up until that point, how influential media actually was.

I had learned all throughout my college career studying sociology that our environments play a huge role in shaping our behavior, but I had never experienced it to such an extent; it was only last fall that I felt it fully. Those feelings were draining me; emotionally, physically and psychologically. The only hopeful feeling I had at the time was during those final weeks of the election when it was clear, even if only in my own head, that Hillary Rodham Clinton was the best fit to move our nation forward, just as Obama had during the past 8 years. She was a beacon of hope for all people.  I kept thinking about how awesome it would be to have lived to see the first African-American president and the first female president.

We all know what actually happened and that’s when I reached my most hopeless. I was fed up with fear and fed up with negativity. It was on the morning of November 9, 2016, when I sat in front of my television crying. My emotion was raw and I feared what the next four years would hold for us as a nation. I was determined to change something – anything. The media and the social climate is what got me to that point, so I told myself “screw this, not anymore.” On November 9, 2016 I wrote the first of many Facebook posts and named it “Recognizing Happiness & Hope.” I wanted to post daily and point out small gestures, actions and instances that I saw in my own life, because I wanted to squeeze all the happiness and hope that I could out of simple things.

I wanted to use social media as a platform for positivity and for something good. I wanted to give people a chance to read some good news; to read something nice.  I made sure every day to write something that was kind, that was happy or hopeful. These posts have, in turn, given me a sense of who I can be in this world if I just take a little time to focus in on the positive actions of both myself and of others—because, if you don’t already know, there are a lot of kick ass people and things that are happening in our world. We just have to recognize them. Some days are easier than others, but that’s the beauty of it. I take on the challenge of “putting things into perspective,” and try find the silver lining in some of my darkest moments. I have found myself throughout this process not just to be the “smiley” one, but to also be the one who puts my own happiness and love for others into action.

My posts are ongoing, but the advocating bone in my body was still twitching. It was this past Spring when the president signed the first travel ban, halting (mainly) Muslims from entering our country. Again, I told myself “screw this…it’s just not right.” I started a handmade greeting card business called Snail.Mail. I couldn’t think of a better way to throw love and kindness into action than to write someone a card.  Whether we are welcoming a new neighbor to the United States or just sending a friend a get well soon card, these little pieces of folded paper with hand-written notes inside bring immense joy and they let people know they are cared for. And in a world full of texting, facetime, messenger, and emails, we all need to take a break from “screen time.”  

When I created Snail Mail, I made one promise to myself and to the folks who helped me to be a good and kind neighbor.  A portion of the proceeds would go back to organizations in my area that exemplify what it means to be a kind and loving neighbor; to our neighbors who are refugees, immigrants, new to the community and even folks who have been in the community for years. To be kind is such a simple task, but we often fail miserably. It takes practice and it takes patience at times, but it is worth it.

Since the creation of Snail Mail, I have been able to spread kindness and gratitude across the nation and even beyond our borders. These small gestures of kindness have trickled over communities that need to be reminded how loved they are and it has been beautiful. I hope that these cards continue to trickle into mailboxes around the Richmond area, the state of Virginia, the nation that we love and even beyond our borders. Why? Because everyone deserves to know that they are cared for and we need to be the example.

If you would have asked me a year ago if a “ripple” effect was real, I would’ve told you “hell no.” I would never have thought that I, Carrie, from Richmond VA, could make an impact beyond my friends and family. It takes some of our darkest and saddest days to see that there is a small light at the end of that tunnel and if we move toward it, we can break into the light and never look back.  I can once again be that “smiley” girl that knows why she smiles. She smiles because she is doing all that she can to spread a little bit of happiness around like confetti, one facebook post and one card at a time.

You can find Snail.Mail on Facebook @cheathamsnailmail and on Instagram @cheathamsnail_mail