DEAR MISS MANNERS: My very dear aunt has a hobby of making homemade greeting cards that she sends to some of her friends and family. The cards are usually very nice, but she doesn’t really make enough of them to make selling them online very worthwhile. She sends a bunch to Operation Write Home, but she still ends up with more cards than she knows what to do with.
I suggested that she could send them to random people in the phone book and make their day (who doesn’t want to get something nice in the mail that’s not a bill?), but she thinks it would be creepy. Your thoughts?
GENTLE READER: That if you want to prescribe (or practice) what are known as random acts of kindness, you show a bit more consideration for the targeted recipients.
If you received a greeting card from a stranger, or an unsigned one, would you really go all glowy with the thought that there is a greater supply out there of human kindness, and that you are fortunate to have been touched by it?
That may describe the reaction of those who find that their toll or drinks have been paid anonymously. But Miss Manners can think of far more likely reactions to a randomly sent card:
(1) That it is an advertisement, not worth the attention to try to discover for what.
(2) That it was misdirected, and the intended recipient will have been cheated of whatever pleasure it might have brought.
(3) “Why can’t I remember who this person is? How am I supposed to reciprocate when I can’t figure out who this is? Someone’s trying to be nice to me, and I’m going to come off as rude.”
Therefore, Miss Manners would consider it a randomly distributed favor for you to spare these people, and to suggest to your aunt that she find additional charities that would be grateful to receive cards for their clients to use.
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