Mailboxes. I’m sometimes not sure if I like them or not. When I was a kid, I always vied to be the first to get to ours after the postman headed on down the street. I don’t know why, since I rarely got any mail myself. Perhaps, not being sure if there would be something good in there was enough to prompt the rivalry with my siblings. Hope springs eternal, you know. I also remember one surreptitious nighttime trip down the street, around two or three in the morning, when we diabolically raised the flags on all the boxes in the neighborhood, imagining the frustration of the postman the next day, as he stopped at every single one of them to check for outgoing mail. I only admit this, knowing that the statute of limitations has run out many years ago, and I won’t have to worry about the federal authorities knocking on my door to “ask a few questions”.
Later, as a young newlywed, I would dutifully (at the behest of the Postal Service) move the mailbox, post and all, from the street which backed up to our little house to the one in front of it. New to the topography of this beautiful little town in the foothills of the Ozarks, I was surprised at the rocks which surrounded the post as I freed it from the original location. I remarked to the Lovely Lady that it was smart of the folks who had installed it to use those rocks to hold it securely in place, little knowing the task which awaited me as I attempted to bore a hole at the new location. The shovel was useless, as was a posthole digger I borrowed. It wasn’t until I acquired a solid steel bar designed for demolishing the pesky rocks that I made any progress and finished the job. The bar weighed about 15 pounds and I think I may have impressed my young bride with my physique as I worked. Or not. I also learned a never-forgotten lesson about the Arkansas soil and the rocks which actually seem to grow here about as quickly as the grass itself.
I’ve told you about an embarrassing encounter with a Postal worker, when I was frustrated and angry, another of my unhappy memories in dealing with mailboxes. The argument was about the proposed location for the box at the home to which we were moving. There’s no point in going into that again, but I guess you could say the road in my relationships with mailboxes hasn’t been all smooth. There was one, though…
I saw the new owner of the house across the street taking it down from it’s place next to the front door. I had admired it for several years and I wondered what he intended to do with it. Needless to say, at the end of the conversation, it was mine. Now, I didn’t know what I was going to do with it, but it went into a closet to await it’s next opportunity to serve. The wait wasn’t long. We moved to the big Victorian two-story house within a year and stayed there for over eighteen years. There was a perfect spot for the unusual mailbox beside the front door…and at this address, the mail was delivered right to our door! The clear glass container was certainly a conversation piece. The description was stamped right on the face. “Visible Mail”. What a great idea! No more going to the mailbox, wondering if it was worth opening the door. There was no mystery to the process. You knew you had mail and opened it, or you knew there was none and went on in without stopping. Of course, visitors to your home would also see the mail and could have food for thought as they waited for you to answer the door. You hoped there was none marked “Final Notice” for them to contemplate. And, it could be a little uncomfortable when a family member came to visit and noticed a letter from a relative who never wrote to them at all. Overall though, the idea of visible mail is one which made a lot of sense. I really loved that transparent container.
We no longer use the box, since there is no delivery to the door where we live now. It sits, dejected, in a cupboard awaiting re-purposing once again, just as it did for those few months so many years ago. I thought of the great little receptacle as I spoke with a friend today. But, more came to my mind than just the aesthetic beauty, or even the happy memory of using it for all those years as we raised our children in that drafty old house.
I’m realizing more and more, as time passes, that we ourselves are a lot like mailboxes. Inside of these receptacles of ours are messages which are important for folks around us to receive. They are messages which have come to us from elsewhere; messages of love, of support, of correction, and even of reproach. We have a responsibility to communicate these messages. Our families crave them; our friends need them; our communities will falter without them. It’s how we grow and mature; how we build relationships and teach our children. The problem is, the messages are in closed boxes, with no indication whether they’re really inside or not. We are not transparent, not even translucent, most of the time. The intended receivers of the communications never know that there is anything for them to hear, or see, or learn.
We listen to the news and hear about “transparency” in politics, in government, in organizations. Yet, we are not transparent ourselves, even in our personal lives. We are closed boxes sitting next to closed boxes; all with undelivered messages inside. I’m thinking that I’m about ready to put a message or two in the “Visible Mailbox” again, because I think there may be a few things I can help with. I bet you’ve got some messages that I need, as well.
Check the box when you get home. You’ll see…
“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.”
“Those who are absent, by its means become present: It (mail) is the consolation of life.”