A Day in the Writing Life: At the Post Office

The small, pastoral, yet somewhat sophisticated area (population 5000) where I live, boasts three post offices. During peak time (which could occur at any moment), the amount of frustration generated by the action or inaction of some postal employees wastes enough energy to operate 23 cell phones on the planet Pluto. That’s no small feat. Postal employees make it a habit to keep one worker behind the counter per every twelve patrons in line, keeping employee #2 within view, reading the local paper or braiding her hair. By the time I reach the counter, I’m ready to pull the safety pin out of the nearest hand grenade.

Much to my surprise, I encountered an entirely different post office last week.

I entered our main branch (I know it’s the main one because it’s open for limited hours on Saturday, and it sports its own parking lot with four parking spaces). The moment I stepped inside, I was immediately whisked away into a Hallmark film.

The place seemed brighter, unusually cheerful, and surprisingly welcoming. There was a glow about the room despite the same drab walls, dull interior, and cement floor. Granted, I was pleased that only one customer stood between the postal worker and me, but not pleased enough to hallucinate. Then it hit me. It was Chris, the jolly, in his late twenties or so, government issue employee.

His smile was so bright that he could have lit all the candles on an octogenarian’s birthday cake.

He looked so happy that he’d made the place come alive.

My turn came early because the lady before me kindly offered to step aside to an empty counter to properly lick the hundred or so envelopes she planned to mail. Typically, post office patrons do no such stepping aside, but do all their licking, lamenting or labeling right there at the counter making all behind them wait. I knew it had something to do with Chris and his luminous smile. His winning grin and benevolent words could have made the moon weep for joy.

At the counter, I told Chris that I needed postage for my oversize envelope #1 as well as the self addressed envelope #2 folded inside #1 which was to be sent back to me by the recipient. Proper procedure is to weigh each separately because envelope #2 usually weighs less on the return trip. Chris only weighed envelope #1, holding his smile of contentment and sheer delight the whole time and muttering sweet nothings. How could I quibble over a quarter or two with the very personification of bliss? It was easy to overlook his negligence. I dared not rain on his happiness.

Chris’ cheery demeanor encouraged me to overlook any shortcomings and treat him with patience. And he reminded me of the importance of utilizing kindness toward all…all the time. Kindness can benefit the giver even more than the receiver. I had a skip in my step when I left the place.

If every person in our society made a point of acting kindly, more often, life would be far more pleasant for all of us. Imagine that.

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