pledge of allegiance

December 19th, 2016

Today I stood in line behind nineteen other patrons served by a diminished staff of two underpaid postal workers, packages stacked cattywumpus in bins and on counters, the holiday stamps sold out, the customers impatient but still peaceable, because what else are you going to do, the wait stretching ever longer behind me as if to the end of time, or at least out the front door, and I thought to myself: this is what this country needs, indeed this is what this country is. Neighbors assembling in democratic fashion, first-come first-served, inconvenienced, to do something selfless for someone else, using an old-fashioned and unglamorous system that still ably conveys their tidings across inconceivable distance and indecipherable zip codes with a high degree of reliability, affordability, and yes, even speed.

Perhaps some of us have overlooked what is already great about this country.

Anyone with the proper perspective can tell you that greatness is not stitched on cherry red gimme caps or emblazoned in ten-foot-tall letters atop the penthouse floor, but found in inconspicuously small things. Small things have filled my time since I leapt off social media and invited people to save their Facebook likes and send me mail instead. Since then I have spent a little bit of every afternoon writing to folks who gamely wrote to me first, people in California, Massachusetts, Illinois, Nevada, Wisconsin, Missouri, Virginia, Oklahoma, and Iowa, states I name here so you can know that you made my day.

Your mail has saved me. Saved me from self-obsession, that is. From my own fear, angst, and despair. Because before I respond to a letter I read it several times, entering your life by quieting my own. This is nothing new, just something to be rediscovered: a key, I think, to civil society and noble friendship, the ability to interrupt for a moment the nonstop stream of self-absorption that otherwise engulfs and destroys us.

What I’ve shared with most folks is the vital necessity to take the long view right now, much like a postal customer, and to do small things with great love, as Mother Teresa taught. To be sure, there will be shameful waste and ruin, thievery, greed, lies, crimes and disruption on a grand scale, but our independent spirits can still rise. In these treasonous times, I pledge allegiance to the United States Postal Service, and to the flag of a Forever stamp. If you’d like my address, just send me a message through this Contact form and I will promptly respond because it is the single greatest thing I can do.


  1. I thought of you Saturday, as I stood in line at the post office — the self-service line, which was marginally shorter than the counter line. The customer two people ahead of me was purchasing one stamp at a time for about 50 holiday cards. It would have been quicker had he purchased a book of stamps from the machine, but perhaps it was out. We customers waited, smiling at each other, making small jokes.

    The woman in front of me had difficulty figuring out how to purchase her postage, and the machine rejected her card, because of the way it was inserted. So I offered to help her; she accepted happily. I guided her through each step, and then got my own postage, and then suddenly the customer behind me had questions too. I answered them. (This is the part where you came to mind. Because of your encouragement to be kind to people and speak to them.)

    I assisted the woman with affixing her barcode and postage stickers and guided her to the mail slot. She was so grateful, but that’s not important to me. It was the REALNESS of the experience that energized me.

    Comment by Kathryn — December 19, 2016 @ 6:31 pm

  2. Amen and cattywumpus. I continue to have complete faith in this ever unfolding beauty of this wonky thing called life. Whether I see it or not. And, I see you.

    much love,

    Comment by Mary Sherman — December 19, 2016 @ 6:41 pm

  3. Oh, I love you so.
    I have come to that same conclusion,small things with great love.That’s really all
    there is to do now.

    Comment by Marcea — December 19, 2016 @ 7:30 pm

  4. In new York stamps are also sold at the grocery stores and 7-11!
    When I was a young teenager I would handwriting letters, and drip hot wax, and seal it with a decorative stamp. Perhaps I shall do this again. Lovely memories of simpler times!?

    Comment by Kathy — December 20, 2016 @ 4:45 am

  5. I have been thinking lately of going back to snail mail. How lovely it was to open an envelope and find a hand written letter, filled with news. The very fact of taking time to actually write on paper, instead of a screen, seems to me an act of real human connection.
    Thank you, Maezen and all who comment here, for reminding me that we all have the power to work small miracles by doing small acts of kindness.


    Comment by Jude Smith — December 20, 2016 @ 6:15 am

  6. My post office experience this year was good.My closest one has become difficult to get to because of road constuction.So I .went to the bigger more crowded one twice.This one has two do it yourself machines that I find very threatening.To speed the lines that is a blessing to the techno lovers (not me) well, twice a kind well trained worker stood by my side & processed those transactions with me with skill & kindness beyond the call.I have nothing but praise & gratitude for these folks who are stressed &rushed to the max.

    Comment by daisy marshall — December 20, 2016 @ 9:34 am

  7. I salute you. Amazing.

    Comment by Carol — December 20, 2016 @ 1:05 pm

  8. During one of my waits at the PO I noticed that not one person in line was looking at a phone. Just waiting. Rocking on feet or exchanging pleasant smiles and in one case, between acquaintances, a conversation about children and grandchildren.

    I live in a city now, but the old rural post offices used to be (as in, just a decade ago) the center of community life. A friend who was a rural deliveryman for decades told me once he always felt like ‘the local sheriff’. I remember one particular story about a grand old dame who would wait for the day’s mail at the end of her driveway with white gloved hands.

    There is nothing quite like putting pen to paper. It is always worth it.

    Comment by Laura — December 20, 2016 @ 2:48 pm

  9. Kath clued me in to here on FB. I miss seeing you there but will concentrate on Cheerio Road. I need to absorb you every now and then…your words go straight to my heart. Blessings for you and love.

    Comment by Mary Petro — December 20, 2016 @ 6:38 pm

  10. This is beautiful and true. Your words are poetry. <3 Thank you.

    Comment by Shawne — December 21, 2016 @ 5:39 am

  11. How neat to open Google News this morning and find your Blog. Post Office as the Town Square, a new angle on what can be a trying time. We drove miles into the Texas countryside to mail a gift box to Colorado! We were the only customer in a rundown shack, painted yellow, in Trumpland. He never attacked the Post Office did he.

    Comment by Larry and Helen Misiak — December 22, 2016 @ 6:44 am

  12. Dear Larry,
    You are right. He conquered the world with a smartphone, and we will prevail with the post office. Much love and gratitude to you always. I may need to visit Trumpland myself soon.

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — December 22, 2016 @ 7:08 am

  13. Our local post office is inside our tiny grocery store, simply a little desk where neighbors stand in line together, though I’ve never seen more than 3 people at a time. We all take a moment to chat with each other and the grocery store clerks who have been trained to run the postal counter. It’s one of my favorite things about living here. Small things with great love abound. 🙂

    Comment by Rivkeh — December 22, 2016 @ 10:46 am

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