I love the mailbox. I loved the mailbox in my childhood home: a box with a door on both sides built into the thick wall next to the front door. The mail carrier slid everything in from the outside, and we opened it from the inside – turning a little latch to a small door, contents often spilling onto the living room floor. I loved the mailbox assigned to me in college (#1908) and strolling over to the mailroom once a day to discover mostly flyers for events, but occasionally a real letter from a real friend at another school far away. I still love walking out the driveway to check the mailbox each day, though I’m not sure why … I usually find only bills and “current resident” missives. I love the whole idea of the postal system, really (though I know there’s room to be frustrated from time to time) that a vast network of people are charged with passing notes and other items all around the world – often for a few quarters.
Going to the mailbox in December, though, is the best. Colorful envelopes and holiday stamps tell me that our wonderful community of friends and family continues to include us in their circles. They do this even though we do not send Christmas cards. I wish we did. I want to be the kind of person who sends holiday wishes, cute pictures of our household, and funny or thoughtful messages. I want to be the kind of person who maintains address lists and can track the growth of our kids and the ebb and flow of beloved dogs through yearly images. I want to be the kind of person who reciprocates, who sends joy and love to be discovered in mailboxes around Memphis and beyond. As it turns out, I am not this person.
Still, we receive cards – some with handwritten addresses or notes inscribed! Still, we are reminded of long-time friendships and far-off cousins. Still, people seem to say, even though you can’t get your act together, we love you. This is probably not really what they are all thinking, but maybe a few. And it’s definitely how I receive them. My December mailbox is a reminder of unearned grace and forgiveness even for being not good at this particular thing. (Don’t worry, I don’t really beat myself up about this … I know this isn’t my thing, and I can usually remember that I’m good at other things.)
In the December mailbox, I find long, braggy letters from that one relative. In the December mailbox, I find picture-perfect families, smiling in coordinated outfits, the same families I know have been to hell and back over the years. In the December mailbox, I find reminders of the meaning of Christ’s birth, wide-ranging messages of light in dark times, and humorous tongue-in-cheek greetings. In the December mailbox, I also still find junk mail and bills. In the December mailbox, this fallible network of ordinary people reminds me of something essential: we are loved, and deeply.
In your December mailbox, you won’t find a card from our family. But here I am in your email inbox to say hello, I sure am glad to be part of this world, celebrating light in dark times, part of a network of care and attention, and giving thanks for the little reminders of God’s love and grace that show up – not just in mailboxes and not just in December, but all the time if we remember to go check.