Published
  • Watercolor notecard by David Burton.
    Watercolor notecard by David Burton.
  • Watercolor notecard by David Burton.
    Watercolor notecard by David Burton.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- When a neighbor receives a kind note from us, especially if it is handwritten, they feel like the writer has a deeper desire to serve them or connect.

“Isolated and lonely people desire a personal touch. This has always been true. But it is especially true during this period in our social history,” said David Burton, community development specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

As a speaker and writer on the topic of neighboring, Burton says he is seeing a surge of interest in connecting with the people who live nearby, and notecards are a great way to do introductions.

“Taking the time to personalize a notecard, like with watercolors, can be relaxing for you, but it also tells the receiver that you invested time in the communication,” said Burton.

PERSONAL NOTES MATTER

Quentin Schultze, a professor emeritus of communication at Calvin College in Michigan, is a fan of handwritten notes and personal letters. He has written books and blogs on communication topics, and when it comes to a handwritten note, he says a nicely written note is gold.

“If there’s something very personal that’s encouraging and complimentary in the note, it makes a huge difference,” said Schultze. “Communication is about connecting so fundamentally it is about creating relationships. Handwritten notes are a way to do that, and especially now since so few people take the time to send them.”

In addition, a hand-created notecard is the opposite of what happens on social media. There is no public exposure, influence or group laughter. But there is also none of the negative that comes with social media.

“Hand-painted notecards, for example, are tremendously powerful because they are so personal,” said Burton. “Very few people will take the time to create a card, write a note of some type, and then send or deliver it to someone. It just does not happen much. That makes a note like this much more personal and meaningful.”

Handwritten notes are a great way to be an encourager and tell someone they are valued or are doing a great job. These notecards also provide an excellent way to connect with neighbors, even if you are sticking them in the door of a neighbor you do not know yet.

“Even introverts, who might be uncomfortable knocking on the door and handing a plate of cookies to a neighbor as part of an introduction, can send a kind hand-painted and handwritten note as an introduction,” said Burton.

LET’S GET STARTED

Where do you start with creating notecards? Burton says an easy way is with water-colored paints, small brushes, a pencil and painting paper cut in 4x6 or 5x7 sizes.

Burton says he prefers to create the art and then slide it into “photo frame notecards.” This type of card has plenty of room for a handwritten note, and it allows your art to be showcased easily on the cover. But simply using your painted piece of paper as the notecard is fine too.

“I attended a workshop recently organized by The Hopeful Neighbor, and they taught us how to use stencils and watercolors to create some beautiful water-colored cards,” said Burton. “And, I have to say, I found the whole experience very relaxing and positive.”

After making your creation, the next step is to write out a heartfelt note saying thank you for something a neighbor has done recently or just offering a word of encouragement. Even if you write one note a week to somebody else, just four or five sentences, it is a positive step.

“Don’t make the note long,” said Schultze. “Don’t give all kinds of explanations. Just get immediately to the point from your heart. That will mean a lot to the person that receives it.”

Of course, the perfect place to start is with a neighbor, Burton says.

“I am hearing about positive changes in how people connect with their neighbors. But there is still room for improvement,” said Burton. “You can take a few steps this week that will have a positive impact on your neighborhood and personal relationships. Plus, you can have fun creating the cards and even involve your whole family.”

If you like this idea and want some practice, write and mail a note to the author of this article: David Burton, MU Extension in Greene County, 2400 S. Scenic Ave., Springfield, MO 65807.