The line in front of me was three deep, and only one man was working behind the counter.
Ugh. Why is it always like this at the post office? I glanced at my watch and wondered how long this will take.
It seems like I’m always in a hurry, and this day was no exception. My errand at the post office was an invitation to irritation because what I needed was so small — just a little additional postage for a square envelope that needed to be mailed that day. It should have taken only a few seconds, except for that line in front of me.
I heaved a sigh and took my place at the end of the line. Be patient, Shelly. Just slow down and be patient.
I glanced at the man behind the counter, chatting it up with his customer, a woman with a stroller. They seemed to be having a good time, laughing about this and that. Finally, she finished and the next woman stepped up to the counter. Same thing. Lively banter. Lots of smiles. Their cheerful conversation took maybe an extra minute or two.
Next up, the older gentleman in front of me. Now we’re getting somewhere, I thought. He probably won’t be much for small talk.
As I moved closer I took a careful look at the postal clerk. He’s a man in his 60s with kind blue eyes that bore years of laugh lines. He looked straight into the eyes of the old man, probably twenty years older than him, and cheerfully said, “Hello, Sir. What can I help you with?”
Did I detect a hint of an accent? Where he was from? I wondered.
He continued, “Are you having a beautiful day, sir? Because you deserve a beautiful day!”
Wait. Did he just tell another man to have a beautiful day? Suddenly I knew there was much more to this postal clerk than met the eye.
The old man in front of me grumbled a response, but undeterred, the postal clerk continued with his conversation. “How about those Blackhawks?” “Do you speak Spanish?” Pretty soon they were laughing about Spanish phrases like old buddies.
The old man finished, and it was finally my turn. I wanted my stamp, but I wanted something more. I wanted the warmth, the kind words, that came so freely from this clerk. The stamp I needed bore the image of Abraham Lincoln, which turned into a conversation about our state’s favorite son.
“Have you seen his home in New Salem? It’s really great,” his eyes lit up as he talked about Old Abe. Somehow that led to a brief discussion of Croatian literature (ah! Mystery solved!), and on it went. By the time I had finished my transaction and mailed my card, I knew that something special was going on in that post office. And the special thing was the clerk.
I couldn’t possibly feel my usual inner impatience when I was witnessing grace right in front of me.
God met me in the post office in the form of a kind, blue-eyed man from Croatia. He didn’t share Jesus with me — I don’t even know if he knew Jesus — but he spoke volumes about slowing down and recognizing every person.
As I left the building (my errand had really only taken about ten minutes of my day), I knew I had learned a lesson that God had been trying to teach me for a while.
Kind words matter. Simple gestures are better than grand flourishes. Be still and know.
Even though it happened several weeks ago, I’m still thinking about that kind man and all of the people who have left the post office smiling, in a better mood than when they came in. I think about all the grace that has spilled onto all the customers who left feeling better about themselves than when they arrived.
That day God used an unlikely person to get my attention, to cause me to breathe, to help me to see. What or whom is He using to help you slow down?
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