This fall, I’ve been taking a writing class. It has challenged me to carve space to write, to take notice of beauty, and to think about the words I say even more intentionally. One of our recent prompts asked us to reflect on a national news story with a personal lens. Here is mine.
When we’re tempted to hear news from our world and despair, how can we pen letters of hope to ourselves and the people around us?
Dear mailroom employee,
This is just a note to say thank you. We have never met. And yet, our lives are codependent, linked by correspondence not between us, but around us. Thank you for what you do.
My young life has been syncopated by memorable mail. Letters from my grandparents on birthdays turned into my own cards to friends, my own pencil marks on notebook paper.
Postcards placed eagerly in corner blue mailboxes from vacation spots. College applications placed gingerly in our neighborhood mailbox, my own hopes and wishes also sealed inside the brass fastener.
You made it possible for the words of loved ones to get to me, and for my own shy words to find their way into the right hands.
I’ll admit, your occupation has always seemed romantic to me. The daily duties of sorting and stamping and shuffling sound like symphony in a world now defined by soundbites.
I imagine you settling into your station every day, finding your cadence. Pushing carts filled with cards across concrete floors. Touching paper, carrying newsprint, grazing over the texture of stamps and the indents of ballpoint pen on cardstock. Operating sorting machines – buttons, screens, chutes.
Sort, stamp, shuffle. Repeat.
I can only imagine that these instincts kicked in for you, mailroom employee, a few weeks ago when you received that oddly-shaped package. I can only imagine how the air in the CNN mailroom must have grown stale, the hum of machinery suddenly getting quiet in your mind.
I can only imagine how it felt to have your job as a carrier was suddenly catapulted into the national spotlight and transformed into a headline, printed and re-printed on the same newsprint you yourself have handled so many times.
I can only imagine how it must have felt to know you held a weapon, the same one that would be sent to past-presidents and officials across the country, intended to harm.
Memorable mail, yes. But not in the way it should be.
It hurts me that the ancient and beautiful world of mail – this intricate system of delivering words to hungry hands and hearts – was tainted this week by a man who was perhaps starved for some vulnerable human relationship, who perhaps might have benefited from the gift of connection that we know is found in handwritten letters.
You made it possible for his correspondence to stop before it found its intended hands. You saved a life, in the same way that you have helped in the saving of mine.
Do not allow the narrative of this week to make you feel less-than. Do not allow one bad sender to taint your view of all of us who ship and receive. Your role is, and always has been, an important one. Vital, in fact.
It matters that we have responsible hands handling the words we vulnerably share with one another, searching for our own connections, indenting our own paper with ballpoint pens and sealing our own dreams behind brass fasteners.
This is just a note to say thank you. Your job matters.