Thoughtful Human's Ali O'Grady, holding up a best-selling "How is Your Heart Today" card, at NSS.
For sure, they fell into the greeting cards category last week at the National Stationery Show (NSS) at New York’s Javits Center. But Ali O’Grady’s Thoughtful Human line offered greetings of a somewhat different sort.
From her “Supportive” card series, for example, in the “Grief and Depression” category, is one that read “Hey! Keep your head up. Or don’t. Whatever feels right.” Another, for a grieving loved one, bore the message, “Something really sad happened on this day and we don’t really talk about it anymore, but I remember and I’m still really sorry.”
Among other designs geared to “Challenging Circumstances” like cancer, addiction, injury and miscarriage, a best-selling card read: “BREAKING: Someone is Thinking About You,” and showed an illustration of a brain mapped out into thought areas including “Lunch,” “Puppies,” and the biggest, “You.”
Another best seller in this series was “REMINDER: We Are All Rooting For You,” each word a sign held up on the sideline by football fans watching as a field goal kick clears the goal post.
Another Thoughtful Human card category included “Family Dysfunction & New Parenthood” and dealt with strained relationships and postpartum depression. Among the others were “Gratitude & Employee Appreciation,” “Friendship, Love & Long Distance” and “Holiday & Special Occasions.”
As her card company’s name indicates, Thoughtful Human is the product of a most thoughtful being, one who has been on what she calls a “complex journey with grief” since losing her “favorite human”--her dad--to colon cancer in 2011.
“It was all about me struggling to communicate with my dad about cancer--and the possibility of his death,” said O’Grady, who spoke in March for TEDxEmeraldGlenPark on “The Questions We Never Ask About Cancer, Depression, Addiction.”
“In hindsight, I was reacting to the lonely emotional journey he was on, that he didn’t share with me as a teenager--and I didn’t know how to ask.”
Ultimately, she added, “It’s about, How does someone have real communication before their person dies?”
O’Grady recalled how her father fought his illness for 10 years, then took a quick downward turn at the end.
“He asked me why I looked so sad all the time at the hospice, and I realized he was already gone, and that my time was up,” said O’Grady. “It was a huge ‘Oh my God! How do I help other people navigate what I couldn’t do?”
Thoughtful Human product, then, emphasizes “radical empathy” and is designed “to help people find honest ways to communicate in dynamic relationships and challenging circumstances like these.”
Like depression, for a prime example: “People don’t want to say the wrong thing, so they don’t say anything.”
But Thoughtful Human cards permit them to “tap into those fears,” said O’Grady, “which is an important component of recovery”--a good supportive sentiment here being, “Nothing you could ever do could make me give up on you.”
So by way of her cards, O’Grady seeks to build community and educate--and promote compassionate conversations about physical and mental health. And while she doesn’t focus on it, her cards are further distinguished by being printed on plantable seed paper.
“I have a huge passion regarding sustainability,” she explained. “I was crusading for global warming awareness in high school and always cared about the environment, and knew when I started the company I’d have low to no waste on everything--especially in an industry that is so wasteful.”
Thoughtful Human, she noted, “is arguably the most sustainable greeting card brand in the industry, with zero-waste products and plastic-free packaging. In reality, only a small percentage of buyers actually plant the cards, but it’s an added value, and in the case of grief over death, brings forth new life.”
The seeds, by the way, are all non-GMO wildflowers: Bird’s Eye, Clarkia, Black Eyed Susan, Catchfly, Snapdragon, English Daisy and Sweet Alyssum. Thoughtful Human cards, meanwhile, are available in Whole Foods stores throughout the Bay Area, Target.com, Paperchase UK, and as of this spring, retail stores throughout the U.S.