Love in a Cardboard Box

Reflections of a College Frehmen

“I am single-handedly keeping the Post Office alive.”

Rachel, my dear friend and newly inducted penpal, made this claim several weeks ago after traveling to the post office with a handful of envelopes destined for mailboxes unknown.

With a new article pending in my noggin already, I had wondered which event I would write about next. Rachel’s announcement sealed the deal.

My event of choice? Care package deliveries. I KNOW, I KNOW. How does that count as an “event”? And how riveting can the arrival of a cardboard box full of food and trinkets really be? Bear with me.

For a kid who has been off to college, there is not any doubt in the splendid nature of a care package. They are often unexpected, announced by a charming pink slip in my mailbox that is quickly turned over to the Post Office staff with a barely suppressed squeal of happiness. Running up the 3 floors of stairs as fast as my wee little legs can carry me, I can attest that nothing is quite so satisfying as awkwardly ripping through layers of packing tape to reveal untold care package glories.

Don’t you roll your eyes at me. I’ve had some serious care packages in my day! For instance, the box from San Antonio that ferried a dress-whites clad teddy bear and an illustrated version of “Our Story” from my man. Then, there was the package personally delivered by Kasi, one of the dearest friends Youth Choir ever gave me, full of caramel apples, assorted boxes of tea, cough drops and other goodies to keep a sick friend in a happy mellow.

And then, on a weekly or biweekly basis, came the boxes from Mom! These postal apparitions were the prize that drew me almost magnetically to my mailbox every day. Perhaps I wouldn’t find that pink slip. But, if not, surely I was only a day closer to the next.

Poetry, candies, Valentine’s Day cards, shampoo, and sometimes even stickers arrived with my home address stamped as a badge of caring. Most of this, it’s true, I could have picked up at the local CVS. But, somehow they were treasures. Just as the essence of my mom and her bittersweet mix of concern and happiness for me swam in her poetic verses, it was also filling every spare ounce of air in that splendid cardboard box. She was sending me so much more than supplies. She was sending me HER. Sending me home.

I became, admittedly, almost greedy for these postal deliveries. My enthusiasm was just that great. It wasn’t so much the idea of the tangible goodies, though volumizing shampoo is a girl’s best friend. Much more than that, it was the thought that someone had taken the time to assemble it, and send it my way with an unspoken message: “I’m thinking of you. I hope you’re well.”

You might still be stubbornly thinking to yourself, “A care package isn’t an event. Or, perhaps it is, but it certainly couldn’t be a BIG event, a life-altering event. Could it?” I politely but firmly disagree with you, sir or madam. The delivery of only one parcel could (and I would argue that even this is untrue) be dismissed as a mere drop in the bucket. But, as the author of one of my favorite books The Cloud Atlas once quipped:

“What is an ocean but a multitude of drops?”

Each and every care package that found its way to Johnson Hall coaxed a grin, a twinkle of the eye, or a bit of optimism from even my most laden self. But, as a combined force within my first two college semesters, the delivery of those glorious gifts was so much more than you would ever imagine. They were a reminder that even on the days when you were most alone, the people you love were never more than a wandering thought and a gracious act away. That was all it took – a kind thought, an act of spontaneous kindness – and the Post Office would ferry a bit of love wrapped in cardboard and postage right away.

Maybe, as Rachel had said, we and others like us are keeping the Post Office alive. We, who realize the importance of a written note or a small, goofy gift enveloped in layers of paper and caring. Or, is it possible, that we are keeping something so much bigger alive? The sentiment that keeps “I love you” in our Post Offices, that keeps relationships alive across the miles with a fragment of time used to put a stamp on a kind thought.

That event, that devotion to delivering LOVE in snail mail even in this age of immediate communication, is an event worth remembering. Thank you.

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