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Just When You Think the World Is Ending, a Kind Act Renews Our Faith in Humankind

Updated: Feb 28, 2022

The geopolitical chaos of the last several days in Ukraine may well be some of the most significant events of our lifetime as powerful as 9/11 and the assault on the Capitol of January 6. These events, riveted in our collective consciousness, shake the very foundations of our lives. After these seismic occurrences, life is never quite the same. Our comfort, our security, our belief in the “system” become seriously under assault.

And if we add in the racial inequality playing out in high-profile court cases and a global pandemic, a refugee crisis, and the brink of nuclear confrontation, we have the perfect storm of collective despair. But sometimes, if we pay attention, if we are alert, there is a flickering light at the end of this tunnel to renew us.

And that’s today’s story.

In the midst of some remodeling Peggy and I are doing to our home of many years, the contractor and his team removed some bathroom fixtures, a vanity, and a countertop. These were in excellent condition and certainly would fit in with someone else's home. It did not feel right to discard some perfectly usable items into the dumpster.

We connected with a local agency that makes good use of these home building materials and makes them available for individuals in the midst of remodeling starter homes, to remodelers who may not have the resources to purchase this equipment. A pickup date was scheduled, and of course that day brought a typical Minnesota blizzard with subzero temperatures.

We explained that we would not be home but provided access to the garage, and the nonprofit group was welcomed to remove the items. No need for any paperwork, no receipt. We were just grateful that someone might be able to use them.

About 6:00 p.m. I returned home and noticed that our roadside mailbox was smashed and buried in a snowdrift. Compared to the challenging events of that day in our lives and in our world, the death of the mailbox was hardly a global crisis. A minor nuisance especially since the ground was frozen. But we did what hardy Midwesterners do in these situations: we stuck the post in a bucket of sand and figured we’d await spring to dig a hole for the new mailbox.

But then something magical happened.

We received a thoughtful, handwritten note from the gentleman who drove the organization's delivery truck. He explained that on glare ice that day with a heavily weighted truck, his brakes were no match for our sloping driveway, and he had skated over the mailbox.

This is Minnesota, this happens, and life goes on. We were grateful and appreciative of his thoughtful note. But then, the next day he appeared on our doorstep and was profoundly apologetic for this

minor inconvenience. He expressed gratitude for our “building contribution” and was remorseful for this accident and that is exactly what it was. An accident.

This story does not require a psychologist to analyze the importance of our encounter over a mailbox. When there is a misadventure, when there is an accident, explain what happened, graciously accept that sometimes things do not go smoothly—no need for drama. And accept that life happens and you can blog about it. The lessons we learn are often profound.

During these times of unfathomable global chaos, there are moments of genuine human connection that renew our faith in the kindness of humankind.

Image from Unsplash.

ADDED 2/28/22: An Unexpected Gift

A few days after this initial post, something quite unexpected happened.

I mused how to resurrect the mailbox and was not at all certain if the post office would deliver mail when the mailbox was now on “life support,” in the sense of sticking it in a bucket of sand.

But in the early evening dusk of a gray Minnesota day, I thought I saw a mirage when I pulled into our driveway. The mailbox and that of our neighbor, which had been side-by-side were now upright, vertical, and ready to receive our precious cargo of bills, junk mail, magazines, and other items.

Someone had put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Unbeknownst to me, two neighbors were skillful in carpentry arts and had the tools, the talent, and made the time to bolt and brace the mailboxes. I was stunned at how precise this surgery went, how totally professional the repair job. And I had a profound sense of gratitude.

Peggy and I were deeply touched by the graciousness of the two busy Mayo Clinic professionals, our dear neighbors, who are much more at home repairing the human body, for their skills and especially for their fortitude in the punishing knee-deep snow of Minnesota. Surely they had families and other, more important tasks than resurrecting Humpty Dumpty.

An icy accident, a battered mailbox, a kind and apologetic truck driver, and two gracious neighbors with tools . . . thank you for making our mundane world a little brighter at a time when world peace seems unreachable.

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