When an event occurs in the world that makes us suck in our breath in horror, not only do we experience whatever happened once, but it is repeated in all the forms of media we dip into. Soon we start sharing our dismay and sadness among ourselves and in groups, and I believe that is where healing begins and the seeds of action are born.
But the past few weeks have been so dark, with things close to home and far away, that I have found my mood sliding down on the gray scale toward the black pit of depression. There are things I do when this happens—I withdraw and pray, I soak myself in nature, I lose myself in a good book, and I look for anything around me that will lift my spirits. So I started looking for the good, and I didn’t have to go far.
Looking out the picture window where I write, inspiration came in the form of our mailman. I often think this must be a challenging occupation. Being out in nature must be lovely when the weather cooperates, but it’s not a leisurely stroll. There is always a deadline. And who wants to walk our hilly neighborhood for six to eight hours a day with a heavy bag of mail?
Our current mailman always has a friendly greeting. He is on it when a mail hold doesn’t go through when we are on vacation, and he helps when a delivery becomes tricky. But today, I’m remembering another mailman.
Doug walked our hills for several years, but he was more than a postman. He knew all of us in the neighborhood. If an elderly or vulnerable neighbor did not pick up their mail, he made it his business to find out what was going on. He would knock on the door, ask another neighbor, and in the case of Penny, Doug would call a relative. He was somewhat like a guardian angel. Doug moved to a desk job when his knees just couldn’t take the hills anymore, and we sent him off with tokens of appreciation and tons of good wishes.
Rod lives at the top of the hill where the street dead-ends into the chaparral. A retired high-school teacher, he grows gorgeous chrysanthemums, often winning ribbons for the vibrant beauties. After each flower show, Rod makes several bouquets and delivers them to the neighbors. Showy jewel-like blooms you would never see in a florist or nursery are brought to each door. Rod never stays long because he has quite a few deliveries. After he leaves, I take over, appreciating each unique bloom and then carefully arranging them in my grandmother’s large crystal vase set precisely in the center of the oval, marble-topped antique table right by the front windows. This is a floral arrangement that begs to be shared with passersby.
Last fall, as Rod delivered his bouquets, he announced that this was his last flower show. He has battled a progressive disease for several years. Age and deterioration have taken its toll on his mobility. It has even become difficult for him to pick up the morning paper from his driveway. But that duty was taken off his shoulders by three lively towheaded neighbor children, ages 3 through 7. Under the watchful eye of their mom, Kate, early in the morning we see them running up the street to the “flower man’s house.” Taking turns, they scoop up the paper, ring the bell, and hand Rod his paper. Kindness begets kindness.
And then there is our pool man. David is somewhat of an enigma. He owns a lot of acreage up the coast where he has pigs, a few dogs, and some horses. Still, he keeps our pool clean and functioning. To prevent brushfires, every year around June 1 signs go up across the state, giving landowners a deadline to cut down dried grass. So David borrowed a commercial mower and started cutting down the dried foliage on his land. When birds started flying up, he immediately stopped. Spotting nests in the brush, he said he would wait until the young ones were gone. David also rescues any struggling creature he sees in the pool . . .
Caring in the neighborhood takes many forms. It didn’t take long to come up with these examples, and several more started nudging into my mind. I started to feel my mood lighten. It wasn’t quite so gray—maybe a little pink was seeping in around the edges. Looking out at the homes that line our street and the streets that make up our community, I think, There is a lot of good and beauty in this world.
And so, my prayer for you and for me is that no matter how dark life is, we will always be able to see the good, move toward it, and embrace it.