Words are one of the most powerful elements of life; they can change someone’s day, even someone’s life. A longtime friend of Darling, Ashley Cook, is someone who we’ve always looked to for her beautiful use of words. We are excited to announce her collection of greeting cards called BOWE, in collaboration with Darling. These are not your ordinary cards; the words are deep and true, fitting for many of the hard, memorable or joyful moments of life. Read our interview with Ashley below to be inspired by your potential for encouraging others with your words and slowing down to savor life and relationships in a deeper way.
Ashley, Tell us, why are meaningful words are so important in our day and age?
Good and meaningful words are so important because the words we carry become the stories we believe. And the stories we believe change the lives that we live.
Giving good words has always mattered. And yet, they do seem to matter a little more right here.
I don’t know anyone who would say that the last two years haven’t been hard in some way or another. There has been change and loss and forced isolation. There has been grief and confusion and a heightened sense of division. Almost everything feel different somehow and yet here we are trying to figure out life in a brand new way. People need encouragement more than ever. They need to know that they are not alone in their thoughts and feelings. There is someone else who is scared too. There is someone else who knows what it feels like to have to say goodbye too soon. There is someone else who knows how it feels to wait and wait and wait. There is someone who sees your good news and wants nothing more than to celebrate right along side you.
If the last two years have taught us anything at all, they have certainly taught us that we cannot walk these days alone. We are meant to show up and listen and care. We are meant to come together and celebrate the sweet things. When we don’t, we feel the loss. When we don’t, we know we are missing out on something.
Meaningful words remind us that there is someone else who sees us right here and they care. Whether they have slowed down to say I love you or I believe in your or I am with you right here— they have taken time to leave us a little less alone. I am not sure that we have ever needed this more.
What does the name “BOWE” mean?
Maya Angelou talked about being a rainbow in someone else’s cloud and I love that. Even on the darkest days, there is beauty. And so often it looks a lot like bending our way toward someone else. It looks like slowing down and noticing another. It looks like bringing a tiny bit of hope or a tiny bit of joy with us when we go. Bent like a bow, we come close long enough to listen or love or celebrate. It’s magic really, this kind of gentle care.
What is your favorite phrase from one of your cards?
It is hard to pick a favorite, but one that I really do love is: “i don’t have a single answer, but i am here. whatever you need until you don’t anymore—i am here.”
I believe “I am here” is one of the kindest things we can offer each other. We can rarely do much of anything to fix what is hard or messy or unbearably painful for someone else, but we can always come close and stay until they make it to the other side.
When someone right around me is going through something hard, this always feels like a good place to start. I want them to know that they won’t have to carry any of it alone. I care and I will be there as much as it feels helpful. They can call. They can talk about all of it— or we can go on a walk without talking about any of it. They can ask for all the help they need.
While I love the sweet and celebratory cards too, this card feels important. What a gift to be able to show up on the hard days a leave each other a little less alone. This matters.
Why do you think there is an epidemic of loneliness in our culture, and what’s a small way we can combat it?
This is a very large question that is hard to answer quickly. I believe there are so many things that have contributed to the loneliness that people feel these days, but I think a large part of it is just how digital everything has become. It feels as if so much of life is happening through a screen now. Whether it be shopping online or posting about a vacation or sending a friend a quick text to catch up— so much of how we interact is through a phone or a computer. It often feels empty and much less and yet so much of this has become normal.
It is easier to order food from our phone than make a meal and gather a few people around a table. It is easier to text than call. It is easier to get “caught up” on peoples lives by scrolling through instagram. It is easier to order coffee or groceries or books or clothes or anything at all online. On and on it goes. And in so many ways, we have chosen easy. We are missing out on the little interactions with people as we walk through the grocery store or order our food at a cafe. We are missing the sound of someones voice when they take the time to call instead of send a quick text. Sure, we still call and share meals and walk through aisles to shop. But, there seems to be less of it. And I think we depend on these things regularly to feel connected to people and places. These daily interactions leave us feelings seen and heard by the community right around us. And we all need that.
On top of this, there are the the silent pressures that social media has added. There is pressure to have more and more “friends”. There is the pressure to have a shiny life that looks impressive from the outside. There is the pressure to have plenty of people see or comment or like all that is shared. Every bit of this has changed the way we show up. It is performative and I think what we all want most is a place to come as we are and share honestly. We want and need a place to be real. We need to be seen and heard and held. We need a few people who really know us. But, we often settle for comments and likes and a few more followers.
Somewhere along the way, we also decided that independence was a good thing. We have convinced ourselves that being strong and capable of almost all of it on our own was something to be proud of. But, this is simply is not true. We need people. People need us. We need to know that there is someone who will check in. We need to know that someone will care about our good news and our hard news. We need to be able to share our days. We need to be helped. And also— we need to help. We need this kind of connection that reminds us that we are all here together.
All of this and so much more leaves us living further and further apart. We are moving faster. We feel the need to accomplish more. We are used to showing our picture perfect bits for all to see. We are communicating more and more through screens and devices. We are often trying to do more and more of it on our own. And all of this leaves us lonely. We are busy and distracted and less connected to the people right around us that need us.
As simple as it sounds, I think it is important to make space to gather people around without phones and really share time together. We don’t need to overthink it. We just need to make space for people in our daily lives. Let someone come over while you fold laundry or do the dishes or prep meals for next week. Ask a friend to come with you as you run your errands. It doesn’t need to be fancy or special— I simply think we need time together. I think we need space to come and help and share in the simple ways that leave us all feeling a little less alone. Small and daily decisions to be together really do matter.
In your opinion, what are the dangers of digital words on our devices in comparison to handwritten words or face to face dialog?
Communicating digitally is quick. It is fast and easy and we like that, of course. But relationship is built on time and care is communicated through sacrifice. We need to know that someone is willing to slow down and listen to us over lunch. We need to know that someone would take all the time that it takes to consider the words that they mean most and put them in a card. Sure, a text is easy. A comment on instagram will always be simpler. But, people are worth much more than a quick comment here and there.
With so much of our communication happening through computers and phones, we can begin to believe that this is all that we need. It has become normal. But, there is no substitute for someone looking you in the eyes as you share. They hear your voice. They see the expressions on your face. They have their own expressions on their face as they share. This soothes something deep down— this seeing and being seen. It connects us in a deep way that we have always needed.
There is also something about a handwritten card that feels personal and deeply connecting. When we hold a card, we are holding onto something that someone else shaped with their own hands. They held this piece of paper and they added to it with you in mind. Now, you are holding it. The paper that they held. The words they wrote. The words might be the very same that they would have put into a text, but they wrote it all out. You have their words in their handwriting. As simple as it might seem—this is another layer of who they are. It is unique and all their own. Messy or beautiful, it is their handwriting. We need more of this— handmade and personal. Sure, it is convenient to order a soup right to your door. But, to have a friend drop off muffins or a soup or warm bread that they made slowly in their kitchen— there is simply no way to replace this kind of care. And I think we long for cards in the very same way. We need a few things that were shaped and created with simple care.
Digital communication does have its place, but there simply is not a way to replace the ways that we are nourished deep down as we let someone hear our voice and see our face. There is no way to replace the feeling of holding onto something that someone else shaped with their own hands. It is human and real and deeply connective.
While so much of our world continues to become digital, we are still humans with hands and hearts. We still have souls that cannot settle on their own. We need people to come close. We need to be seen and felt and held and heard. These are the things that soothe our souls that were meant for real relationship.
Do you have any advice on how to write someone a meaningful note? How do you be vulnerable through written word?
When writing a card, I think taking the time to really consider the person matters most. We can always write general encouragement, but the words that have meant the most to me have always been those that have been specific. Someone has noticed something little that deserves celebrating. Someone has paid attention to how a particular change might make me feel. The very same situation might not make them feel the same way, but they know me and they know what I might need to hear. Someone has slowed down to thank me for something that mattered to them in a particular way. The detail wrapped into peoples words always feels kind to me.
I would also say, be lovingly honest. Say the very things that you mean most. It is easy to hold back for fear of saying the wrong thing or saying too much, but telling people exactly what how you feel is helpful. Be kind. Be gentle. Be thoughtful. And when you are writing to someone who is going through something tough— share where you can relate. In the middle of what feels heavy or hard, it is good to know that we aren’t the only ones who have been heavy or heartbroken. Someone else has been tired too. Someone else has been scared. Someone else has felt lost or lonely. Someone else has needed a little extra help for a while. Me too feels like relief every time. So, share what you can from your own journey.
What is your vision for BOWE—how would you like it create a movement in society?
My vision for BOWE is that people would feel loved in the simple ways that matter most. A card feels like a very small thing, but slowing down to say I am with you or I believe in you or I am so happy for you— these are the little things that communicate care. They remind us that we aren’t alone in any of it. We don’t celebrate our good news alone. We don’t push through our days alone. We don’t wonder or worry or walk through the ordinary days alone. Someone sees us. Someone remembered us. Someone is right there with us. And this is the point.
I am not sure that we are going to turn around and wish that we built bigger things or pushed harder to make a little more money. I think we are going to be grateful for every way that we made time for people. I think we are going to be glad that we took the time to leave people certain of the ways that we care.
And so, might there be more connection and more care. One card at a time, might we slow down and remind someone that they are not alone. We are thinking of them.
I hope that as people receive cards, it would encourage them to go on giving them. When someone takes the time to send you a few good words you remember all over again how much they mean. So, might good words would give way to more good words. I hope we would be people who encourage each other to slow down and care for others in this particular way.
Give us a challenge toward that—what small part can we play in our communities?
I encourage you to think of one person who you can encourage this week. It feels simple to think of someone and let them know that you are thinking of them, but these are the things that matter to all of us. We all need to know that we aren’t alone here. We are supported. We are cared for. We are remembered. Maybe you have a friend who is walking through a tough time and needs to hear something as simple as I am right here and keep going. Maybe you have a family member who just finished a big project and deserves to hear well done. Maybe you have a coworker who has been a little more helpful lately and you want them to know how much it has mattered. Take the time to let someone know that you are thinking of them. Let someone know you appreciate them.
You never know just how much your words will mean to another.
What’s next for you?
I want to continue to this conversation. I created these cards because I care deeply that others would feel seen and cared for, celebrated and loved. This is the thing that fills me up. This is the thing that I get excited about. This is the thing that matters more to me than almost anything else. So, I want to continue to create cards that make space for others to share their good words. Nothing makes me happier than friends telling me who they are sending cards to. It is beautiful and sweet and important. So, more of this. And I want to continue to write in other ways that feel helpful. I have been led and lifted by so many good writers. I want to lean in and share my own words where I can.
Click here to shop the Darling x BOWE cards.
Images via Candida Wohlgemuth