Monday, December 20, 2010
I should warn you a little before you read this, that I hate labels. Not the kind on food boxes or clothes, although those can be annoying enough. No, I hate the labels that people give to each other. Sometimes, they are given in love and kindness, perhaps a loving nickname or an attribute that your child is showing. But they can also be given in anger and mean spiritedness. Sometimes they are given to a person, and sometimes they are given to a group of people.
As many of you know, I am a Postmaster in a small, rural community. I know many of the people in town by sight or name or both. I am constantly redirecting mail to the right places, or the right person, even when it is addessed completely wrong. I have been dealing with lines out my door for the past week. It is busy, confusing, happy, angry, frustrated, empathatic, and even slightly crazy around here. I know that some places are bad, but I moved to a small town and a long line here is 10 minutes and that is only if you get behind several people mailing international, or renting PO Boxes. (Trust me on this, I had three boxes to rent just this morning and several people shipping overseas).
I have had to listen to several people this morning "kidding" me about "Going Postal". I take serious offense at that term. Probably because the US Postal Service is not even on the list of the top 500 companies to possibly have an employee hurt or even killed due to violence. That means, that you have hundreds of companies that are not as safe to work at as the Post Office. So, with everyone so intent on belittling me this year, I thought I would share what "Going Postal" really means to an employee of the USPS.
To me, going postal really means,
listening to people gripping, complaining and bickering; trying to talk to a customer who insists on finishing his cell phone conversation before he speaks with you and who holds up the line because he won't step out of the way; helping an elderly widow pack and mail her packages to her children and grandchildren; helping an elderly man address his letters because he can't see to write the address anymore; helping someone save a little money by repacking their box into a flat rate box because I know they are on a fixed income and can't afford it; hearing the same "joke" at least 30 or 40 times each day, "Is is cold enough for you yet?" (this is always asked when it is about 8 degrees outside).
Going Postal means serving people who want to ask me where the UPS drop is; or when Fed-ex will arrive at their house; it means having people yell at me because their expected parcel isn't in my office yet and it was sent a week ago, (parcel post I might add, so it hasn't even hit the target delivery date yet!); it means having people come in and talk to me because they are lonely, hurting or sad; it means donating my time on a Saturday to come in a hand out parcels so that people can have an extra day to pick up all their Christmas mail; It means going into the office in the evening because one of my older customers needs their medication that is sitting at the post office or going in on a Sunday because one of the Churches needs a box for the children for their Christmas program.
Going Postal means working long hours and doing my best every day. It means being involved in my community, serving the people that I work for, caring for the people around me, and being a good neighbor and a good friend whenever possible.
Sometimes, an employee might have a bad day, but by and large, the group that I work with are totally amazing. I have employees who have pulled money out of their own pockets to help a family at Christmas or provide a meal for someone who needs it. I have employees who have driven someone home becasue they have alzheimers and can no longer remember where they live. I have employee's who have given up a day off so that a co-worker can have the day for a family event (when the employee had it on the schedule for months and he had to cancel reservations and change his own vacation in order to accomadate the request).
I have twenty-five years in the Postal Service, and for every bad thing that I have seen , I could counter with at least 50 amazing and true good things. So, this season, be gentle to your fellow men. You really never know what kind of harm a "label" can do until you have walked through life in their shoes.
And, by the way, I am extremely proud to be "Going Postal".