Why We Must Support the US Postal Service

When my father was stationed at the American Embassy in Rome, our family mail came to us via the Army Post Office (APO), which routes US Postal Office mail to military bases and diplomatic missions around the globe. [A note here: the Defense Department says that the APO mail service is available to only US Postal Service mail. You’ll understand why I say this in a minute.]

So, back to Rome. The Italian postal system was unreliable, so people living in Rome during my parent’s time at the Embassy (early ‘60s and, again, mid-‘70s) put their mail in post boxes in Vatican City, which has run its own postal system for the past century. I just ran across this informal 2017 poll that shows that Italy continues to be ranked poorly on its handling of the mail, with some 80 percent of the respondents to an informal poll rating it as “poor” or “fair”.

Source: postcrossing.com

the US mail ranks 7th in the world

Look at the bar graph again. In this list of 35 countries, Japan leads in high points for its mail system, followed by South Korea, Switzerland, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Austria, and the USA. 7th in a list of 35 countries, a good system.

Americans depend on the US mail

Americans have long relied on our government delivery of the mail to keep in touch with family, order supplies, transport livestock, and even transport children, as my friend Karen Coody Cooper writes in this piece that recently ran in our local newspaper, The Palm Beach Post.

My dad grew up on a South Dakota farm, where the mail linked his mother to family and friends who had found a warmer, easier life out in California. My father’s memoir, From the Hidewood, includes a story about his mother writing her family and making a friend of Dad’s one-room schoolhouse teacher through conversations at the mailbox.

… by the time she’d put the letter and its three pennies inside the roadside mailbox and raised the flag, the familiar slender figure with the book bag in hand had almost arrived.

Robert Amerson, From the Hidewood

Current attempts to hamper service

Elsewhere in the same issue of The Palm Beach Post was an article about the Trump Administration efforts to hamper the US Postal Service’s ability to deliver the mail, — in order to ensure its demise and resurrection as a for-profit enterprise — resulting in the death of chicks in transit to poultry farmers who’ve relied on the mail for their inventory. Representative Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) has taken the issue to Washington. Look at her. I would do what she asks. She is one of us persistent, nasty women who wants answers. I don’t think she’s going to be okay with converting the US Postal Service into a private corporation. And, Americans serving our country abroad rely on the USPS to get their mail to the Army Post Office.

Private sector Mail failed me

This week, I had my own postal experience that sheds some light on the issue for me. After a decade of holding onto the written records of my mother’s family — a collection of letters, poetry, and other paper in annotated binders which she created and curated — I decided to finally get them to their proper home, the historical society in her hometown of Winona, Minnesota. Although I felt badly about not having done more with the materials while I had them, I knew that I was doing the right thing in putting these treasures closer to family. The Winona County Historical Society assured me that they’d accept the materials, redirecting any that might better belong in another historical collection — Mankato, in Blue Mound County, was where her mother’s Kelly family was from; other family came from Fountain City, across the Mississippi in Wisconsin.

I packed the binders into two sturdy boxes culled from Amazon deliveries. Given the delicacy of the task, and trying to limit my exposure to people — the Coronavirus has not been tamed here — I chose FedEx to deliver the two boxes to their permanent home.

Here is what happened one week later.

One box was delivered to the Winona County Historical Society. The other box was dumped at my front door, soaking wet, falling apart, and somehow still containing its precious cargo. The FedEx address label with the Minnesota address was gone, and the box made it back via my husband’s name and our home address on a new FedEx label. How this happened is a mystery. When I tracked the box, it shows that it is still enroute to the original destination, with a current address of Countryside, IL. The automated response line would not put a real person on the telephone. Because the box is still in transit. And the FedEx shipping center down the road, which I visited yesterday with the box and cargo in hand, will not issue me a refund and/or re-ship the cargo. I’ll try again today to reach a human being.

So much for the private sector.

The USPS will get my box this time. I’ve been out in the world enough to appreciate that social distancing precautions are in place to protect me, and 95 percent of the people we’ve seen are wearing masks. The Coronavirus numbers are in decline.

Of course, Governor DeSantis and Education Commissioner Corcoran are demanding that Florida schools re-open in-person. I’m betting we see those COVID-19 numbers shoot back up.

Why Sharing An Avocado Might Save Your Life

My neighbors helped me out with a problem this past month.

Our surviving avocado tree. Top half broke off in early summer. Its sister tree was uprooted by a hurricane several summers ago.

The tree I started from a pit 7 years ago produced way too many avocados for us to keep up with. We harvested 30 about three weeks ago when the top of the tree broke of the sheer weight of these enormous things, and we knocked down another 15 before Hurricane Isais was to hit us. [Am I allowed to whine that the hurricane was a non-event and that our avocados would have been even bigger and more delicious if they’d stayed on the tree? Talk about a luxury problem!!] An avocado contains many good things but also too much potassium for my husband to be able to enjoy one, and it turns out that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing for one person to handle.

Normally, our daughter would take some home when she visits, but the pandemic has quashed weekend travel plans. Normally, I’d take a bag up to my WW meeting, but we’re meeting on Zoom these days, or share them with friends when we meet for breakfast, but we’re not doing that either.

So, I’ve been distributing them, two- and three-at-a-time, to my neighbors.

We have gotten to know another neighbor through food during the pandemic. For the first couple of months, we used the delivery services of our local markets rather than shopping ourselves, and we were happy when our shopper turned out to be our neighbor. Like so many people, she has been marginalized by the economic downturn, and the hourly job meant a lot. We tipped well. Hope you’re all tipping these connectors well.

Our relationship has developed. When she has extra from her weekly produce from Feeding South Florida, she reaches out to us. She has given us so many apples that I made her a pie. And also gave her avocados.

We wouldn’t be doing any of this were it not for the pandemic. My husband’s Barcelona-born mother had a saying: “No hay mal que por bien no venga.” In English, it’s less poetic: some good comes of every bad thing. Being kind is a very good thing at a very bad time.

In a recent article, AP reporter Seth Borenstein tells us that humans are hard wired to be kind.

Doing kindness makes you happier and being happier makes you do kind acts.

Richard Layard, London School of Economics

And it’s not just emotional. Research has found that kind people feel better physically. University of California Riverside psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky has shown that genes triggering inflammation are turned down in people who do nice things for others. Being kind might even save you during a pandemic.

… she’s found more antiviral genes in people who performed acts of kindness.

Seth Borenstein

In the here and now, I just know if makes me feel happy to connect with my neighbors in this way.

But here’s the real story. This morning, I learned that my neighbor’s father, who passed away last year, had avocado trees, and that my giving his daughter some of our harvest gave her, and her mother who now lives with them, a way to reconnect with his memory. It meant everything to them.

My mango tree — also grown from a pit — should finally produce fruit next year. Can’t wait to share!