What I Learned from the Mailman

3 March 2019

I had never really noticed the mailman before. Sure, we’d wave brightly at each other when we crossed paths, and when I was younger and expecting a birthday party invitation I’d sit eagerly on the porch, straining my ears for the telltale whoosh of the mail truck brakes. The mailman always had something with my name on it when I ran up to his window, when I was still young enough to consider every letter addressed to me a rare and beautiful treasure. Someone had been thinking of me, I’d always say to myself as I raced up my driveway with my letter clutched to my heart, someone had taken the time to form each character in a message just for me. But as for the courier of this deliciously anticipated note, I took little notice. Not until nearly a decade later, when a certain cream colored note found its way into our mailbox.
I had just come home from my summer job as a camp counselor, sticky from fourth grader fingers and exhausted from my forty-hour week. The aforementioned note sat quietly underneath the day’s mail, and I absentmindedly glanced over it as I sorted the endless stream of college mail out from the rest.
Wait a moment. Retirement? I put down the college brochures and, with growing incredulity, read the single sheet of crisp marbled paper that spelled out my mailman’s plans for the end of his working years. He wished everyone a fond farewell, and hoped that he had served us well for the past forty years.
As I sat there, a growing realization spread over me.
My mailman has watched me grow up. He delivered everything from the What to Expect When You’re Expecting to the new parent counseling brochures, from the kindergarten welcome to the middle school code of conduct, from the high school open house schedule to the college mail that was now pouring in by the truckload. And in a few months he will deliver the letters that will decide my future for me, whether they contain news I want to hear or not. All these years he’s been the key link between the outside world and myself, and all these years I have taken his integral role for granted, never noticing his diligence until it wasn’t there anymore.
Perhaps my place in this world isn’t about making myself stand out, about pursuing dreams that will leave me alone at the top. How many people carry out their daily tasks with a smiling face and a serving attitude, comfortable with their role in helping society run smoothly? Behind every public figure of history was not only a veritable battalion of family and advisers but also countless people without one of whom history would have run the course that it has.
At every moment in the world there are people trying to make the world revolve around them, and for some of those people it may have to. But my mailman has taught me an idea that no amount of education could have led me to. Perhaps my role in society is not to fixate the world on an axis around myself. Perhaps it is my task to help the world revolve.

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