I looked in my purse, checked the pockets of my jacket, and rummaged all around on the floorboard in my car and still couldn’t find the key to our mailbox. With growing chagrin and mounting dismay I didn’t want to admit that I thought I knew where it was.
We actually get our mail in two locations. One box is outside our home while the other is inside the local post office. Late morning I retrieved what turned out to be an uninvited catalog and junk mail from our outside mailbox, using the smaller of two mailbox keys I keep in my car on a little keychain. Tossing the useless items on the car seat, I was once again annoyed that trees are so thoughtlessly wasted on endless streams of unsolicited and unappreciated advertising material.
Still in a funk, as soon as I got to the post office I bunched up the offending paper and threw it into the big blue bin inside, then went to get our important mail –only to discover I had left the key in the car. When I got back to my car I decided to head on over the hill and get my mail later. It was a beautiful, crisp fall day and I was on my way to see my kids and celebrate my daughter-in-law’s birthday –another fun, family event!
When I pulled in front of the post office later that night I was full of joy and satisfying thoughts. My youngest granddaughter had ridden back with me from the restaurant to my son’s house and we had made a date for next year, just the two of us in her thirteenth summer. We’d dress up, put the top down on my car and let the wind muss our hair as we drove someplace special to eat. We giggled as we planned, delighted with the possibilities. I was still smiling as I turned off the engine and reached for my keychain.
It wasn’t there. I looked in my purse and checked my jacket pockets. Too dark to do a thorough search on the floorboard, I decided to wait until morning to find it. But morning came and though I hunted for it diligently several times over, no keychain was to be found. Not wanting to admit it, I knew just where it might be…
Back at the post office to search in the big blue bin, my feelings sank. It was almost full, dreadfully full of discarded mail, catalogs, magazines, newspapers, and flyers with grinning politicians. As I made a pitiful attempt to dig down a few layers I knew it was hopeless. If the key chain was there it might well have slipped to the bottom of the bin.
Monday morning I called the post office to explain my dilemma and ask if there was any way I could go through the bin before it was picked up. The woman I spoke to was sympathetic, but told me an outside company was responsible for the bin so there was no way I could accomplish such a search. After a pause she offered that she would drag the bin to the back of the post office and go through it for me.
Shocked that she would offer to do this, I explained that the keychain was very pretty with a little round crystal decorating the top so should be easily visible. However, someone might have seen it, taken it and thrown the keys away, making them harder to find. She said she’d look anyway and call me one way or the other. A few hours later she called to tell me she had emptied the bin and gone through it twice but had found nothing.
Though she did not find the key, she reminded me of something far more valuable.
Life for me these days oftentimes feels uncomfortably out-of-balance. Too much money spent on elections while children are going without health care or even a good education. Young Americans dying with bravery in a war that cannot be won. Afghan women setting themselves on fire to escape domestic abuse because their options are tragically limited. Virtue and peace seem buried under piles of unbidden, unwelcomed misconduct, blatant disregard for others or worse still, apathy.
I believe unrehearsed civility, such as shown by this post office employee, permeates our world much like refracted sunlight. Because of earth’s atmosphere, some sunlight reaches the ground even when the sun is below the horizon. Called the blue hour, or twilight, it’s kind of like stealing time away from darkness.
I, for one, choose to cultivate the kind of atmosphere that is conducive to such thievery!