Minnesota woman uses handmade cards to help friends through tough times

A person making cards.
(Image credit: iStock)

Phone calls and emails are nice, but to Mary Jane Steinhagen, nothing beats a card with a handwritten message.

For the last 25 years, the Richfield, Minnesota, resident has made her own cards and sent them out to people in need of an uplifting message, to show that there's someone thinking of them. Steinhagen got the idea in 1997, after she mailed a member of her Bible study a card following the death of her husband. A few months later, the woman told Steinhagen that she was so moved by the card, which arrived at a time when she needed compassion the most.

Now, Steinhagen sends out about 20 to 25 cards every month. In 2019, she mailed the first of several cards to friend Dan Rode, following the death of his wife Therese. Every card she sent featured an image of a dogwood tree, Therese's favorite, and usually contained a poem about grief and recovery. "First of all, it was a surprise," Rode told the Star Tribune. "Second of all, it was someone saying we care about you. It meant something."

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It's not a one-way street — when Steinhagen was diagnosed with breast cancer, her circle began sending encouraging cards to her. She's now undergoing chemotherapy and is "doing very, very well," she told the Star Tribune. Steinhagen appreciates all the love being mailed her way, with some people even sending her cards she gave them previously. "What goes around comes around," she said.

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for TheWeek.com. Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and EW.com, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.