I have wanted to tell all of the you the story of a friendship. I just haven’t gotten around to it until this moment.
It starts with a question.
How many of you really know the person who delivers your mail? Do you ever really think about who delivers your mail? Have you talked to your mail carrier? Most of us don’t have any interaction with the person who goes through snow or sleet (but not dead of night) to bring your mail to you. That is most likely because most of us no longer have a mail carrier who walks our neighborhood. They drive by in the ubiquitous white mail truck, stop in front of your mailbox, stick in the mail and move on.
But in my parents neighborhood, the mailman still walks the route.
The beginning of this story, and the friendship that followed, happened a number of years ago. My dad’s parents had retired from Christian ministry and for a time lived in a house located 4 blocks from my parents. It was a wonderful “retirement” home for them, a home that didn’t belong to the church that they were serving but to them, a place provided for them by my parents. Grandma and Grandpa never had a huge amount of money. Grandpa was a Presbyterian minister, serving both in large and small churches in New Jersey, Wisconsin, and Illinois. For all of their ministry years the houses that they lived in where the property of the church that they served. That is what made this small house a special place, it was theirs. After a few years in the “Park Street House” they decided that it was time to move to a neighboring retirement community where they could have their own condo but could have meals in the main dining room as well as many other amenities. They could be surrounded by friends. It was great.
And that is where Al the Mailman comes into the story.
Al has been my parents mailman for many years. I am not sure how long, but a long time. Usually he parks his truck at various places in the neighborhood and then walks from house to house, putting the mail into the mail slots or boxes located at each house. No mailboxes at the street! I know that Al gets to talk to people on occasion but I am sure that it is often a lonely job.
One day, a day when my father happened to be home, the doorbell rang. It was Al and he had a letter in his hand and a question.
Dr. A, I have a certified letter here that I am not able to deliver. It is addressed to an older couple who lived on Park, but they moved a number of years ago and there is no longer a forwarding address on file. However, I noticed that their last name is the same as yours. Are you related?
The answer to that was yes. The certified letter was for dad’s parents. It was from a law firm is California. What could a law firm in California possibly want with my grandparents? To answer THAT I have to tell you that many years before Grandma and Grandpa had taken one of their driving trips out to the Western states. And on that trip they had made friends (as they often did) with a couple from California. They exchanged cards and letters for many years but then the connection was lost. This letter, coming from a law firm in California, was to notify my grandparents that they were beneficiaries in this man’s will!! A not insignificant sum of money that allowed my grandparents to have some monetary independence in their last years.
Al could easily have just returned the letter, marking it undeliverable. But he went the extra mile, made the connection between my parents and my grandparents names, and thus the friendship between Al and my dad began.
Al is the only man on the planet who was afforded the privilege of calling my dad “Doc”. Dad HATED that name, except for Al.
My parents attended Al’s wedding to his lovely bride. They felt so honored to be asked!
If Dad was outside and Al was delivering mail, even though Al had A LOT of ground to cover, he always stopped to chat with Doc.
The day after my father’s death Al rang the doorbell, handed us the mail and expressed his condolences. He was as shocked as the rest of us, having just heard from a neighbor about my father’s death.
That same evening, the front doorbell rang. It was dark outside, it was raining and we weren’t expecting any more visitors. I opened the door to find Al and his wife on the front step. Al had finished his rounds, gone home to clean up (he lives all the way in Chicago), come back out to the suburbs to pick up his wife from her job and then they had both come to the house to express their condolences and to pray with us. He put his arms around all of us (literally and figuratively) and loved us as we so needed on that night.
Al is the model of kindness and Christian compassion and I will be forever grateful to him for his friendship with my dad and for his over and above kindness in coming to “pray my dad home”.
Thank you Al.