Several weeks ago, I sat cozy inside while a blizzard swirled outside. The New England winter was attempting to keep March in its clutches for as long as possible. I read my morning emails, including one from 40acts, a Lenten generosity challenge Scott and I have been participating in this year. The day’s theme: Chocolate Tuesday. The challenge of the day was to gift someone unexpectedly with chocolate. It was clear I wouldn’t be going anywhere that day. The snow was piling up inch by inch outside. Who could I offer something to?
I was looking at pictures online of others in other parts of the world, with baskets of full size chocolate bars, giving them to coworkers, handing them out at train stations, passing them out at traffic intersections. I thought about what it would be like for a complete stranger to walk up to me with a candy bar. Would I think it was a scheme? Would I be afraid to eat it? Or would I smile and start munching away?
I couldn’t do anything like that, not on a day like this.
And then it came to me. The only clear option. The chocolate had to go to Dave the mailman.
Dave is our mailman—and he’s typically pretty grumpy. Try as I might, my attempts to engage him in conversation result in either grunts or a litany of complaints. Admittedly, there have been times when I don’t know what to say to him, and I hide or slip inside when I hear him pull up along the sidewalk. Yes, I’m just that mature. Each day, he marches with long strides to our porch, typically clad with his USPS-approved wide brim hat, his arms laden with the letters, bills, catalogs, and junk mail for our building.
I can understand his sour mood, at least to some extent. I imagine being a mail carrier is a rather thankless job. Much like sound men and Powerpoint operators, they receive most of their attention in the form of criticism and complaints when things go even remotely wrong. Driving around their route, they encounter people who are frustrated with the hold-up or swerve dangerously close to pass them. Then try to do all of this in a major snowstorm. Let’s just say it’s a job that would stress me out.
I grabbed a small ziploc bag and went to raid our candy box. I pulled out some options, which led to the “I should give him the Lindor truffles. No, they’re my favorite, and there’s only two left. Come on, Diana, the point is generosity” game in my head. In the end, I had a collection of truffles, Snickers, and Heath bars. I taped a short note on the bag thanking him for coming out in the snow and wedged it into our bronze mail slot.
Would he think it was silly? What if he didn’t like chocolate? What if he was allergic to peanuts, and I just delivered him asphyxiation in a bag?
Several hours later, I heard the storm door open. Sound of something being pulled through mail slot. Sound of envelopes being pushed through mail slot. Sound of door hinges creaking as they eased the door closed. Sound of Dave’s boots retreating along the porch. And that was that.
Let’s be honest. I needed prompting to do this fairly small and simple action—I wouldn’t have thought to do it on my own. It was far from revolutionary. But isn’t a lifetime of spreading joy and blessing in our wake crafted through the little actions of kindness and generosity? Mother Teresa said to do “small things with great love.” Oh, if only I could remember to walk through each day with this sort of vision!
Later in the week, I found a small peach slip with our mail. It was a “Sorry we missed you” delivery receipt, and on the back he had written in thick black ink, “Thank you for the chocolate on the noreaster storm. Just what I needed.” I couldn’t help but grin.