Jan. 6 2020 12:46 AM

Communication has emotional benefit.

The holidays are one of my dad’s favorite times. It might be that all of his children are home or all the sweet treats my sister makes. But, I think it is the chance to hear from friends and family that live far away.

During December, my dad excitedly ventures to the mailbox to see who has sent Christmas cards with updates on their lives. He carefully reads the notes and letters, and studies the photos that many include. But, watch the excitement disappear from his face when he opens a card with a familiar return address, and someone he has not heard from in a while, just to see a name at the bottom – no note, no update. He genuinely wants to hear how people are doing since he lives thousands of miles away from siblings, relatives, and industry friends.

My parents have been sending Christmas cards for nearly 50 years. It always includes a photo and a letter updating people on the activities in their little corner of the world. The letter is drafted by my mom. My brother and Dad add a few tidbits. Mom and Dad decide what the photo card will detail. It covers farm happenings, personal life updates, and activities. It also lets our non-agricultural friends know about the current industry, such as low milk prices, too much rain, or labor issues.

While many young parents often send images of their children to let friends know how their family is growing and changing, my parents have continued this tradition beyond the “child stage.” About 10 years ago my mom questioned if they should continue the trend since their children were grown. The answer was emphatic from my dad, “People look forward to our letter and photo every year. We are doing it.” The commitment to writing might have started with my grandfather, who would handwrite a full-page letter in beautiful penmanship.

As the recipients of many such cards, it is good to hear from friends about what is happening in their lives. Working long hours on the dairy leaves little time for calling friends and catching up. The time change also makes it a challenge to reach out to others during daylight hours.

When letters are expected after many years and they do not arrive, it gives my dad concern. I remember one year that a card did not arrive from his very first employer after he graduated from college. “Pat and Willard’s card is always one of the first to arrive. It’s odd that we did not get one this year,” stated my dad.

He put me on an internet search to find a phone number to see if he could reach out to the couple. I found the number of their son (in his 60s). When the call was returned, my Dad’s suspicions were on target. Pat (who I was named after) had passed away earlier in the year and that is why there was no letter, no card, and no note. But, that phone conversation started more regular phone communication about cow topics between 90-year-old Willard (his previous boss) and my dad.

My dad noted that this year there were less cards than typical. It might be a sign of the influence of technology as some may post “Merry Christmas to all my friends and family,” and therefore fewer people send old-fashioned Christmas communication.

Even though the holidays have passed, it is not too late to reach out to those that you have not heard from recently. A friendly voice on the phone or a letter from a loved one, can lift spirits on a rough day. And sometimes cheering someone else’s day, uplifts your own.

Patti Hurtgen

The author is the online media manager and is responsible for the website, webinars, and social media. A graduate of Modesto Junior College and Fresno State, she was raised on a California dairy and frequently blogs on youth programs and consumer issues.