Sometimes you want to travel to see someone–to celebrate something fantastic, or to tell them you love them, or to give them a hug when they’re going through bad times–but you just can’t. Money, time, all that stuff gets in the way. Instead of sending yourself there, you can send a care package. We all got them at camp and freshman year of college and whatnot (or at least you did if anybody anywhere in the world cared at all about you), but how do you create one yourself?
Step 1: Remember that physical mail costs money.
This isn’t a bunch of electronic blippy-bloos sent through the intertubes. Someone is going to pick up your package and put it on a truck or plane and move it around, and the bigger and heavier it is, the more they’re going to charge you for the privilege. So think small, here. Thinking flat is even better. Or, you know, if you really love the person getting the package, send them a five-foot-tall stack of bricks encased in cast iron for all I care. It’s your money.
Step 2: Decide what you want this package to do.
Is it meant to be cheering? Make sure to include some chocolate or candy and a ridiculously cute picture of a dog, possibly wearing a hat. Is it practical, such as for a broke sibling? Gift cards to a grocery store, some kind of semi-healthy snack like trail mix or beef jerky, and something small but useful like a pair of socks or, I dunno, underwear if you’re close like that. Is it a silly “thinking of you” kind of thing? Little toys, particularly if referencing an inside joke, an old-school mixtape or CD (obviously CD, I mean who has a tape deck anymore?), a wildly inappropriate greeting card (I once sent an adult male friend a little girl’s princess birthday card). And, actually, that picture of a dog in a hat would fit all occasions.
Step 3: Speaking of dogs…
If the recipient has a pet, throw in something for him too, a toy or some treats. People love their pets, and if you act like you love their pets, the owners will love you, like a little love triangle, but not the bad kind that makes everything awkward at parties.
Step 4: Write something.
You don’t have to write a long letter. It can be as simple as “Enjoy!” on a card. But if you’re trying to say something with this package–whether it’s “You’re the best” or “I miss you” or “I’m so sorry,” the easiest way for the person getting the package to understand what you mean is by using your words. Also, remember that while the things you buy for a care package are nice, the toys will get lost and the candy will get eaten, but people hold on to letters–real paper letters written in ink by someone who was thinking specifically of them while writing it–for a very long time. And when they move they open up the box in the closet where those letters are and re-read them and either smile or cry or maybe make that funny nostalgic halfway-in-between face but regardless, they remember. All I’m saying is: Letters. Don’t underestimate them.
Step 5: Make sure you have the address right.
Don’t skip this step unless you feel OK about a stranger eating your carefully selected fancy chocolate bar and wearing the socks you bought for your little sister.
Step 6: Actually put the package together and mail the damn thing.
This is often overlooked, but it’s pretty crucial to the whole care-package-sending process. Also, you might tell your friend to be on the lookout for something nice in the mail, because some people live in large buildings where they have a hard time actually getting the things that are sent to them, and some people live in Chicago where the post office can’t be relied on for much of anything.
Step 7: Receive thanks.
If the recipient is any kind of decent person, they’ll thank you effusively. And maybe even send you a care package back. And then you can send one back, and they’ll send one back, and it’s a neverending cycle of happiness. Well done, you.