I want to do a little shout out to the United States Postal Service. I think they do a tremendous job, and I want to acknowledge the hard-working women and men of that branch of the government.
Two days ago, I was standing in a very short line in the neighborhood post office, waiting to mail a birthday package to one of my closest friends and (luckily) sister-in-law. (On a completely related note, if you are reading this, happy birthday, Amy!) Standing there, I realized that in the past 40 plus years in this country, I had mailed a lot of envelopes and packages, and I could think of only one single piece of mail that was mangled. It was delivered in a see-through envelope, with an apology note.
One unfortunate thing in four decades — that’s a hell of a track record. I would be honored to work with anyone who made just one mistake in the past 40 years (at least one mistake from my perspective)!
Our mail gets delivered when it’s 100 degrees outside. It gets delivered when it’s raining or snowing, or the wind is wicked brutal. Plus, the mail delivery people collect non-perishable food for the hungry — I think this fact is something so admirable it should be taught to every child, especially those who DON’T go to bed hungry!
And inside the post office, I have never been treated with anything other than respect and courtesy. I always bring whatever book I’m reading with me — if the line is longer I can always read, if it’s short and there are no other people behind me, I am often asked by the postal worker behind the counter about the book, and we sometimes get to talk about our favorite authors.
In no small part, the U.S. Postal Service also led to my marriage of more than 25 years. When Jeff moved away with his family, he used to write me letters, with little drawings in the margins of what life was like in southeast rural Missouri, from piggies with curly tails to overall-wearing farmers to fishing in ponds. I moved to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and worked on a newspaper there, and in Missouri Jeff started college. Through it all, we kept writing letters to each other. I remember how I used to go to the post office (the city of Jackson was too small for delivery, you had to go to pick it up yourself), how excited I would get before I would open my mail box, how happy I would be if there was a letter from either Jeff or his sister! Jeff and I fell in love through those letters.
Another amazing thing about the postal service is receiving a birthday card from a dead person. Eerie, yet oddly sweet and heart-warming at the same time, my daughter received a birthday card from her great grandmother who had died. Her great grandmother was a wonderful, caring person, and never missed mailing her grandchildren and great-grandchildren a card for their birthday — with a few dollars inside. The card was mailed 2–3 days before, while her great grandmother was in the hospital. The morning of our daughter’s 10th birthday, we learned that her great grandmother had passed away. That afternoon, the birthday card arrived in our mailbox.
To practice for the written portion of the bar exam, my husband penned letter after letter. The post office delivered every one to siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents.
Times are tougher now for the mail delivery. There is texting and e-mailing, which is instantaneous, so no one writes actual lovely letters by hand any more. Then there are about gazillion delivery services. Bills are paid on line. Everything is automated, fast, computerized, dehumanized.
But as I stood in line, overhearing two people in front of me, who obviously just met, one trying to help the other, I hoped that the post office would always be around, to bring us closer to each other the old-fashioned way, face-to-face.
And, you know what, let’s do one thing this weekend — let’s write a letter, with actual paper and an actual pen, and mail it — because there’s a certain kind of magic in receiving a letter. This will make someone’s day when they find a real, handwritten letter in their mailbox.Write a letter to your partner, or your child, a sibling or a friend. And if you cannot think of anyone else to mail a letter to, address it to yourself, and drop it off at the nearest post office or mailbox, and then wait for it to appear again.