Personal Notes

“If You Had to Pick Just One Place….”

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Ready for a tough question?

Here it is: which one place on all of Earth symbolizes all of human life?

Think hard.  I bet you’re not thinking of what I’m thinking.

If you had to pick one place that captured all of life’s essence, all of life’s greatest moments, which place would it be?
Which one place could tell the story of human life without saying a thing?
Would it be a church or religious institution?
Would it be the inside of a school?
A hospital?
A museum?
Or would it be the outdoors?  Maybe a place of peace or contemplation?
Or would it be a library, which houses all of the books and information known to mankind?

Which one place could best tell the story of human affairs as we know it?

Here’s another way of asking it: if an alien came from outer-space and you could take them to only one place on Earth to explain to them the meaning of today’s modern world of human events, which place would you take them to?

If someone randomly asked me this question, I wouldn’t really know what to say.  But yesterday, as I was searching for a Father’s Day card in the middle of a Hallmark store, I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t think of a better place to tell the story of all human affairs.

hallmark storefront

Think about it.  A Hallmark store captures all life events chronologically.  From your birth to your baptism, from your first birthday to your funeral, from your graduation to your wedding to your retirement, from the birth of your daughter to your first Father’s Day to your first Grandparent’s Day, from Valentine’s to Christmas, from Get Well Soon’s to Happy Anniversaries, there isn’t a single moment missed in the chain of events that we call life that you cannot find in the aisles of Hallmark.

And the polarity of just being there, bearing witness to what is unfolding is pretty amazing, if you stop to really notice.  At any given moment, inside any given Hallmark, if you were to walk down the aisle, there would be so many different life moments all being experienced right before your eyes.  Someone buying a wedding card is standing right next to someone looking for a sympathy card.  Someone in utter grief is picking out a condolence card for an uncle who just passed away, while someone else, in absolute joy, is standing alongside searching for a congratulations card for his newborn nephew.  The extreme feelings of life and death, joy and sorrow, pitted side-by-side, separated apart by merely a few feet of space, is nothing short of dramatic.

And it gets better, because like the times we live in, Hallmark evolves just the same.  Yesterday in the store, I noticed how many options there are for even a Father’s Day card:

  •  Happy Father’s Day from son to father.
  •  Happy Father’s Day from child to two fathers.
  •  Happy Father’s Day from step-daughter to step-father.
  •  Happy Father’s Day from great-grandson to great-grandfather.
  •  Happy Father’s Day from godson to godfather.
  •  Happy Father’s Day from daughter-in-law to father-in-law.
  •  Happy Father’s Day from ex-wife to ex-husband.
  •  Happy Father’s Day from nephew to uncle.
  •  Happy Father’s Day from child to single mother.

You can’t say card makers aren’t socially liberal.  Someone seriously should do a study to see how many of these types of cards get sold in red states vs. blue states.

And so what’s life all about that a Hallmark store can teach us?  One way I’ve always thought of life is that it’s a journey through different relationships that we attain over the decades and, one by one, cross off our list.  We are brothers and sisters, and sons and daughters, and fathers and mothers, and grandmothers and grandfathers, and in-laws and nieces and nephews and cousins, and uncles and aunties, and teachers and students, and bosses and colleagues, and husband and wives, and while the life events will stay the same (births, deaths, graduations, weddings, divorces, birthdays), our relationship to the occasion can change throughout the years depending on our relationships.

After all, today I am buying my dad a Father’s Day card as a son, but I might also receive one from Jiya as her father.  Tomorrow, I may buy a birthday card for my grandson, and the year after, I may receive a retirement card from my niece.

And that is the essence of life – a series of growing and evolving relationships with other people – that Hallmark seems to get very well.

Happy Hallmark Day!

To your family’s success,

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