Today, after standing in line at the post office and watching the proceedings, I decided, when my turn came, to preemptively say as I handed the postal worker my package, “Nothing liquid, fragile, perishable, or hazardous. No insurance, tracking, or special delivery.” The man on the other side of the counter smiled with genuine gratitude and said, “Thank you!”
I am going to guess that the dear man dreams cold-sweat dreams at night about saying, “Anything liquid, fragile, perishable, or hazardous?” And I was thinking that if I could spare him just one time of having to sing his song, it would help. Turns out I was right.
As I left the post office, I got to thinking about how little I tend to consider the lives other people, and how good it would be for mankind if I spent a little more time at it.
One subset of humanity I have, for some reason, mentally role-played is the radio talk show host. I have often had much sympathy with the annoyance of having to respond to every caller who begins with, “How are you?” I realize this is the standard polite formula for openings to social conversation. But I long ago vowed that if I ever called in to a radio program, I would not foist the burden on the host of having to reply for the thousandth time, “Fine. How are you?” I would probably lead with, “Thank you for taking my call,” and leave it at that.
So there’s two demographics I am sharp with—postal workers and AM radio hosts. Also, I know of a professor surnamed “Oliphant,” and I am resolved that if I ever meet him in person I will not make a joke about elephants.
If I need a verse to justify these particular concerns, I can summon any number of them:
“… whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them …” (Matthew 7:12).
“Bear one another’s burdens …” (Galatians 6:2).
“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
Lots of silly things have been said about love over the years: “Love is blind”; “Love is never having to say you’re sorry.” But what impresses me after observing life in the post office today is that love is using your imagination to compassionately understand what another person’s life is like.