Mail Call

mailcall_t658Have you been to the mailbox lately?

Every evening, sometime around 5:00 p.m., Molly the Dog and I take a walk to retrieve the mail. We usually go all the way to the end of the cul-de-sac, turn around, and walk back to the communal box that serves us and nine of our neighbors.

Molly always gets very excited when she sees it is time for our nightly excursion. The act of taking off her Invisible Fence collar and grabbing the leash initiates a little series of bounces and hops in front of our door.

I’m sure she gets so excited because she is eagerly anticipating the arrival of the order she placed with Amazon… or a nice, newsy postcard from that Shih Tzu in Missouri… or maybe she expects we will collect the mail and find an invitation for her to come audition for the part of Sandy in the Starlight Theater production of Annie the Musical.

As for me… the nightly mail walk has come to provide little more than a rationale to add to my daily FitBit count. The “catch” I reel in from Box #7 is almost always a massive disappointment. Bills, promotional flyers, magazines you have no idea why you are receiving, and (more and more these days) invitations to come enjoy a “free” steak dinner in exchange for a presentation on investment strategies.

These seem to make up 90% of our mailbox content.

During one recent bout of “mail funk,” I thought back to the times when “going to get the mail” was a phrase I spoke with genuine excitement. I remember summer camp in New Hampshire when receiving a letter from home was better than a second helping of desert. I remember my years of self-employment when a trip to the mailbox might yield a check from one of my clients. Then there were the times around your birthday or Christmas when that familiar grandmother’s handwriting on the envelope meant a crisp five-dollar bill was waiting inside.

But now the phrase “going to get the mail” mostly means, “going to pick up the next additions to the recycling bin.”

That decline of interesting or personal mail is probably why I (and others like me) am drawn to regularly look at my email in-box. It probably has a lot to do with the popularity of FaceBook, Instagram, SnapChat and other forms of electronic social media.

Each of these platforms extends the real possibility that we will be personally communicated with by another person… maybe even someone we know!

We love it because at a very fundamental level, people crave connection.

You and I want and need reassurance that we are not alone as we navigate the tricky seas of life.

Our ability to extend a hand – even if it is made up of a long string of 1’s and 0’s – to another person and experience that hand grasping us back helps to temper the disquiet swirling in our breast.

Each of us needs to know and be known by another. We require regular reassurance of the kinship pact we are part of. It is just the way God made us.

But I will go a step further; I will say that our need for shared kinship goes several levels below the connection afforded by our casual, electronic encounters.

It’s because ncountering you through your Facebook posts or your tweets (as someone smarter than me once said) is like looking at the world through a drinking straw. Yes… these platforms allow us to make an instant connection with each other. But they only give us a very narrow, one-dimensional view of all the complexity, beauty, depth, and wonder we each represent.

Jesus told us that the two greatest commandments are: 1.) to love God, and 2.) to love our neighbor just as we love ourselves. No commandment, no law, no prophesy, no doctrine or dogma matters more than these, he said.

And the truth is, we cannot authentically love each other if we only see a small piece of who the other is.

Today, give thanks for the people God has given you to love. Do something to reach out and make a connection with the full expression of who they are… and offer them everything that YOU are, too.

Just don’t expect fulfillment to come from a trip to the mailbox.

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