There must be millions of people all over the world who never get any love letters... I could be their leader. -Charlie Brown
Regardless of the growing improbability due to modern methods of correspondence, a yearning for something 'unique' and 'personal' remains each time we open up an increasingly antiquated mode of communication, the mailbox.
When I was a child, my mother insisted the piles of mail addressed to my parents were far from unique or personal. No longer do I yearn for the infinite electric bills, mortgage statements, supermarket mailers, and credit card applications that now come addressed in my name to my own mailbox. What hasn't changed is the excitement that arrives with a rare, personal letter. Whether the outside is dressed with flowing calligraphy (another dying art) or sloppy penmanship, the urge to immediately rip open the note and explore its contents remains.
What could be more desirable than a sealed letter? A postcard. Postcards give you a glimpse into something or someplace a dear person you know has experienced. It means that you mean so much to them that they brought along your home address to share their experience with you. They purchased a postcard, sat down to write something unique & witty, and brought it to the post office to buy the appropriate postage. Unlike the modern day commonality of a Facebook posting to share their journey that will (granted) be more widely admired, exposed, and 'liked' for few hours, a postcard is a small and simple act that will remain happily adorned on my refrigerator for many subsequent months.
The Power of Small, Simple Acts
For the past eight years, I have worked as and have taught professional nursing. Nursing has provided me with the fortunate opportunity to work with thousands of patients, families, and students in a variety of community and hospital-based settings. When teaching students, I aim to emphasize the need for holistic-based care that not only addresses one's physical needs, but our distinct psychological needs. I work to instill early in my student's practice that it is the small, personal, and simple actions that have the most profound & lasting effects on those they care for. Just like a postcard.
According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America (2016), 6.7% of American adults suffer from depression. This already alarming rate quickly skyrockets in individuals that become hospitalized. Freedland et. al (2003) found that greater than 50% of adults hospitalized with Congestive Heart Failure were categorized as clinically depressed. Older adult populations who may face hospitalization or institutionalization outside of their homes are prone to increased levels of social isolation. Social isolation can stimulate increased rates of depression, anxiety, sleep, and memory disorders.
My mission is two-fold. First and foremost, I hope to provide something unique, personal, and tangible for people receiving care in local hospital and long-term care facilities. You guessed it, in the form of a postcard. In other words, a Postcard Pick-me-up! While I have no intentions of quantitatively measuring the patient impact from this project, I anticipate it will help to address many of the negative psychological impacts associated with hospitalization or admission into a long-term care facility.
The second piece of my mission is to have my nursing students responsible for distributing these Postcard Pick-me-ups. While I plan to have individuals send postcards to my work address to track the number of and where the postcards originated, my students will be responsible for identifying individuals who might benefit from a postcard. What types of individuals may benefit from this project? Possibly a child experiencing frequent hospitalizations, a surgical patient that has been hospitalized for several months, a cancer patient who just received a very poor prognosis, a new resident into a nursing home, or an agitated older adult suffering from Alzheimer's disease to name a few. Providing students with the opportunity to spread good thoughts and wishes will help them understand the power of small, simple actions.
Your Role in Postcard Pick-me-up
Plain and simple, this project will not work without your support and participation. My hope is that on occasion you will be willing to take a moment to share someplace or something in the form of a Postcard Pick-me-up that can be shared with a suitable individual identified by my nursing students. What could be placed on a postcard? It could be a simple 'fun fact' about a place you are visiting or a kind note of thoughts or prayers for good health. Your small act of kindness, especially coming from an unknown individual will spark feelings of sincere gratitude and appreciation!
Where to send your Postcard Pick-me-up
Please send a postcard to the following address:
106 Carrigan Drive
221 Rowell Building
Burlington, VT. 05405
A number of schools have expressed interest in participating in this project which is wonderful! Postcards do not need to have individual postage, they can be sent in one package which should save cost. I do ask that each postcard is addressed to the Postcard Pick-me-up address which will serve as a form of advertisement to get others to participate!
Thank you for your willingness to participate in this project. Please take a moment to read the story of Postcard Jack which helped spur this idea and highlights the impact just one person can have on a community.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!!
Jason Garbarino, DNP, RN-BC, CNL
Clinical Assistant Professor
University of Vermont, Department of Nursing