A sunny morning in New Hampshire. Summer is inching closer. A few rural mail carriers ride the backroads, making their rounds. A dog barks in the distance, striking terror into the hearts of each USPS employee.
People in New Hampshire are stuck at home, and they’re going to keep being stuck for a little while. On Friday, the governor extended the stay-at-home orders, with some exceptions. Some hair salons are reopening, a few restaurants, a few businesses here and there. But otherwise, New Hampshire is not out of the woods yet.
In Portsmouth, the Prescott Park Arts and Crafts Festival was cancelled. That hurt. The Seacoast’s ocean beaches are shut down, too.
And of course, high school graduation is limping along. If you can even call it a graduation. In Bow, for example, there’s nothing happening graduation-wise except that seniors get little signs in their yards that read: “Bow High School Senior Lives Here.”
You spend your high school career trying to get good grades and make your parents proud, and all you get is corrugated cardboard on a stick. No cap. No gown. No dancing the Funky Chicken with your friends on top of a speeding van. It’s depressing.
A few days ago, Lydia Gialluca, a Bow High School senior, found something in her mailbox. It was a handwritten note. Inside was a gift card to Dunkin’ Donuts. The handwritten message went something like this:
“Dear Graduate, congrats on graduating, please enjoy this card, and get something at Dunks. Your mailman, Josh.”
The gift card was for $5.
Other seniors in the area have been getting the same cards in their mailboxes. The same short notes. Same five bucks. It’s no Funky Chicken on a moving van, but it counts.
Lydia says it means everything knowing that someone notices her. “We’ve lost a lot of our senior year, and just knowing that someone is thinking of you, well, it’s just nice.”
There were 25 cards that popped up all over town, congratulating seniors. All signed by the mailman, Josh. None of the seniors know Josh personally.
Josh Crowell is the quintessential rural mailman, he’s steady, faithful, unafraid of vicious lap dogs and he is an essential worker. During this coronavirus pandemic, Josh has not slowed down at all.
None of the nation’s mail carriers have slowed down. In fact, in many parts of the U.S., mail carriers are making more deliveries than they do at Christmas.
Thus, while the rest of the country stays in their PJs, eating Haägen Dazs straight out of the carton, mail carriers are stocking up on Latex gloves and masks, logging in extra hours, making deliveries.
But they aren’t complaining. No sir. Not your friendly neighborhood USPS mailman.
One mail carrier, Amy Bezerra, has a route of 500 houses in Denver. She says, “It makes me feel good that I’m out there helping people. It makes me feel good that they can stay inside, especially if they are older or have health issues.”
I don’t know if you ever think about it, but your mailman is out there helping to keep things going. They deliver stimulus checks, Census forms, food, business contracts, cards from loved ones and anything else you can cram into a box, envelope, or federally-approved plastic tube.
With each delivery, they risk infection.
Florida mail carrier Craig Boddie says, “Every day I wake up and just wonder, ‘Is this the day that COVID-19 is gonna come home with me?’”
But mail carriers don’t quit because you know the old saying: Through rain, sleet, snow, and worldwide infectious disease pandemics, the cellphone bills must get through. No exceptions.
“That’s one of the tough things with coronavirus,” Boddie goes on. “We’re like a lifeline. Getting these people their medicines, their supplies.”
You might not notice your mail carrier, but they notice you. And they care about you. Really. Some people even make friends with their mail person.
USPS Mail carrier, Evette Jordain, in Palm Beach, says an old man on her route recently died of cancer. Just before the old man died, he said to his son, “Tell my friend Evette that I said goodbye.”
“And I lost it,” Evette said. “I didn’t know it was going to affect me like that.”
So that’s your mail carrier. Or at least it might be your mail carrier. A lot of people have never even met their mail carrier and don’t know their mail person’s name. Postal workers fly under the radar, they’re in and out before you ever notice them. They know you’re busy with your own life, they don’t want to bother you.
But it doesn’t change the fact that your mail-person works hard for you personally.
And in places like Bow, New Hampshire, they keep morale up. Like Josh Cromwell, delivering greeting cards to graduates that are filled with his own money.
“It’s a hard time we’re going through right now,” said Josh. “I just wanted to lift the seniors’ spirits a little bit.” A mailman to the core.
Recently, Josh has gotten a bunch of thank-yous from seniors on his route. He finds their cards in the mailbox. He thumbs open the envelopes addressed to him. One such thank you came from young Lydia Gialluca. It was handwritten. Heartfelt.
When asked about why she wrote a notecard to her mailman, Lydia said, “Well, it just felt right, saying thank you.”
The girl makes a very good point.
Dear mail carrier: Thank you.
Sean Dietrich is a columnist, novelist, biscuit connoisseur and barbecue competition judge. He is known for his commentary on life in the American South. His work has appeared in Southern Living, The Tallahassee Democrat, South Magazine, Yellowhammer News, the Bitter Southerner, The Mobile Press Register and he has authored seven books.