Friday, January 30, 2009

The Unnoticed Difference

The mail man had a few minutes to chat with me recently. He stood waiting for me to get the last few stamps on a mailing that had to get out. Michael, (yes another one, what can I say,) is a very nice man. He's anticipating, with glee, retirement in five years. Almost counting days!

Making conversation, I asked if he liked his job. He responded, "I used to. Used to like it a lot. Not anymore. Everything has changed and the organization is chaotic. I wonder if the U.S. Postal Service will even survive." I asked him more about him and his life, this and that. Stamps all on, he grabbed the mail saying, "Well, see ya' tomorrow!" My, "Thanks, Mike, have a safe day," trailed out the door behind him.

One thing I noticed is his disappointment with the current situation. He used to feel his hard work made a difference. He's sure it still does to the people to whom he delivers the mail each day. He's equally sure his dedicated efforts don't make any difference to the people for whom he delivers the mail each day. To me, that's a real shame.

I have been blessed, yes, that's the correct word- blessed, to have some great mail carriers as part of my life's background. And, today I'm acknowledging the work they do. More than that, I'd like to commend them for being such wonderful Human Beings.

I've talked about my Long Green Road mail man, Tom. He's the guy who would help look for my dogs when they ran off. He's the one who put my mind at ease when I was afraid that living alone meant something could happen to me and no one would know. Tom's the one who boosted my courage about surviving a life in transition. Tom was never once in my house, or sat with me socially. Still, I viewed him as a friend and I looked forward to his cheerful hello; the dogs and I could quickly identify the sound of his mail truck in the driveway. Tom- a great postal employee!

Then there is Paul. The diminutive mail man on Northmont Street who almost races to each door on his route. It had been awhile since I lived where the mail is delivered to, or through, the door. The old oak door at that address has a brass mail slot for safe delivery onto the hall floor. I quickly got reused to the convenience of it! Shortly after moving in, I happened to be standing in the hall when the mail shot through the slot. With it came two dog cookies. Plop. Fascinating! I yanked opened the door and met Paul. He took the time to stand there while the dogs sniffed and met him, too. Yoki and Meggie learned very quickly to wait at the door for Paul's daily rounds.

Paul loves animals. He's learned through experience, that mail carriers are frequent targets for canine teeth. So, he makes friends with the animal patrons on his route. Even when another carrier took his route while he was on vacation, he arranged it so the treats were delivered uninterrupted.

Another wonderful man who made a big difference. I love him for being so kind to my old dogs. Yoki looked for him every day. Except Sundays...somehow Yoki knew that on Sundays, Paul wasn't coming. Amazing. I don't know how he found out, but the day after Meggie was gone, only one cookie came with the mail instead of the usual two. A few months later, when I told him that Yoki had joined her, he shook my hand in condolence. Tears in his brown eyes.

On Falkirk Road, big Lou with the large laugh was our mail man. Everyone looked forward to Lou. He'd chat. Always had time for you. One afternoon, Doog had a massive seizure in our upstairs hallway. I called 911 and tried to remain calm. I had to get him off the floor but it was impossible by myself. Miraculously, I heard the mail being delivered. I raced down but Lou was already a few houses away. I yelled, "Lou! I need you!" Thinking I wanted to hand him a piece of late mail, he said, "Okay, Mrs. Duggan, I'll be there shortly." I yelled, "No Lou, I really need you now!"

It must have been something about my tone of voice, because he turned and raced back. Dropping his huge leather bag on the porch he asked, "What do you need?" I motioned him in explaining. He followed me upstairs, staying with Michael while I waited outside to hail the ambo. Soothingly saying, "It's all right Mr. Duggan, take it easy..."

We found Lou sitting on the bed next to Michael. Talking very softly with him. He had helped him up, found his robe, and put it on him. When the EMTs started working with Michael, I noticed him very quietly back out of the room and dissolve without a sound. Lou was an angel in my time of need.

We sent a letter of commendation to the Post Master. Lou once mentioned that he was always being reprimanded for returning late from his route. Seems the personal interaction we loved about Lou was the very same thing that caused him to have low performance grades on his evaluations. That seems incredibly unfair.

Since hearing it from Lou, it's been confirmed by the other carriers with whom I've talked. Odd that the customer satisfiers that make them so memorable to us whose mail it is, would be dis-satisfiers to the company. Even Mike said, "I used to think I worked for the customers. But, the Postal Service doesn't see it that way. They don't see the job the same. I am not allowed time to have relationships anymore. So, when I retire I doubt that any of the people I've delivered to will even know that I'm gone."

Don't be so quick to think that, Mike. Oh, I'm sure that'll be true for some. But not most. Never under value your impact. It might look like bits of paper, but it's actually personalized dedication you drop in boxes or through our doors. Never underestimate your unobtrusive, almost invisible, presence. It may go unacknowledged, but it's not unrecognized. It means more than you know.

Think about the mail carriers or the others who cycle regularly through your life. How much they know about you; they hold what they know in confidence. Your mail person knows by what they deliver, when it's your birthday or, if you are grieving the loss of a loved one. Know when there's news that will impact your life. They know the joys and sorrows you're going through. They come and go with little pieces of life safely delivered to you. They are the unnoticed difference in your life.

If you don't know your mail carrier or the people who come to your house, try to change that. The effort is worth it. And, if you do know them, thank them today. Their job, like most, is becoming increasingly difficult to do. Your "Thank you," goes a long way to recharge an emotional battery.

Namaste' Till Next Time,


Eileen said...

I am lucky enough to be on Larry's route. He is always upbeat with a twinkle in his eye and really interested in you and your family. Oh, he'll tell you the "truth" of his life, even when there is trouble to tell, but not in a complaining way ... just in connection with humanity. He'd like to be seen as a caring, feeling individual who hopes to add value to his customers' lives. And he does everyday! Another special treat ... his voice ... he sings with his church choir and as he drives along he's often singing out practice runs of their upcoming performances. You've got to pay attention so as not to miss it, but it gives me a thrill each time I hear it!

jkc said...

What wonderful stories, Holly!

Nancy said...

I, too, had several great postmen. One was an older black gentleman (yes, gentleman) who had delivered mail for years down on Park Avenue where I worked. He would purchase rolls of stamps for us; add additional postage when we ran short and always had a smile and a pleasant word.
At one point, one of my boyfriends (?) gave me a standard poodle named Pepper. Never having had a dog before, I was taken aback by such a present and hardly knew what to do with him, especially since I was a single mother in a small apartment with a small child.
I mentioned Pepper to our postman (whose name escapes me at the moment) and asked him if he knew anybody who might want the dog. Several days later, he came to the office and said he had found a home with a couple who had recently lost their dog. AND, he came to my house to pick up the dog and deliver it to his friends. Talk about good delivery!
The other mailman in my life was Scott, a good-looking guy with a great sense of humor, with whom I flirted on a regular basis! We discovered that we both liked Scrabble and got together several times to exchange words, so to speak. I was nowhere as good as he was, however, and it was a true challenge to play Scrabble with him!

Anonymous said...

I agree, another nice story. We seem to have a different mail carrier on Saturdays, that's really the only time I see them. My sister-in-law's father was a mail carrier in an apartment complex known for senior citizens....during the holidays, his house was full of cookies, treats, and bottles of whatever to drink. My brother would always bring us a box of something from his father-in-law's gifts. I remember as a child that my mother would purchase something small for the mail carrier as well as the milk man, egg man, Charles Chip man and the paper boy. How pleasant!

Erin said...

I had a wonderful postman when I lived on Jack Street. He put cat treats on the mail that went thru the door for our fatty Nilez. That cat, for all 18lbs of him, would move like the wind as soon as he heard that little brass flap open was his favorite part of the day. :o) I've only had one mailman whom I would consider a jerk, he kept my mail hostage for 3 weeks because I refused to let him put my name on my mailbox. (wasn't the greatest part of town--and the postmaster told me I didnt have to do it)

Clearly, cat treat mailman is much more worth remembering. :o)

Flower1 said...

Paul is still delivering the mail here and I have printed your blog and will make sure he hte written report of appreciation. Thanks Holly.
Eileen S.munsote

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