Six days a week we receive an unpleasant visitor. Armed with potentially desirable offerings, this visitor marches up to our front door, reaches into his bag, and then carelessly hands off what is rightfully mine.

We call him Grouchy Mailman.

Grouchy Mailman apparently doesn’t like our mailbox. We live in a 100 year old house. There is a wonderful small door beside the front door, a tiny door with insulated sides which originally served as a milk box. (See the picture above. This is Hudson, our yellow lab, trying to fit out the milk box door!!) For more than 20 years, our newspaper and mail have been slid into the milk box, which I can open from another tiny door inside the enclosed front porch, allowing me to collect the mail without having to step outside in my pajamas.

But Grouchy Mailman decided that it was too much effort to be sure the mail fit into this box, so he began simply dropping my mail to the ground beside the steps. More than once I had to chase an envelope caught in the breeze. Since I conduct business through the mail, with vital communications from editors and–more importantly–pay checks, I was not pleased to think of what might be blowing away down the street.

I am not big on confrontation, but finally decided to nicely ask Grouchy Mailman to be sure my mail got into the box. After all, if it was big enough for a few bottles of milk, surely it was big enough for my envelopes. Not to mention, since I work from home, if something was too big to fit in my milk box mail box, he could have rang the bell and handed me the envelope in a jiffy. But my talk with G.M. did not go well. He flat out refused to turn the envelopes sideways, all that would have taken to make sure taller envelopes fit without falling out.

I suppose I could have called the post office and spoken to his supervisor. Maybe even should have. But I imagined this would have made G.M. even grouchier, and my mail might have suffered a far worse fate. So I ignored the little voice that said I was right, bought a new mailbox, and mounted it above our quaint old milk door. Now, at least, the mail is not on the ground.

Then I was talking with my mother-in-law, who lives across town, and she was telling me about her postal worker. He brings her stamps and lets her give him cash for them, asks her if she needs anything. He goes out of his way to smile and say hello and good morning. And recently, after having her mail held while she was away for a few weeks, he brought it to her personally when she returned, without having to go through any paperwork, so she wouldn’t have to stand in line at the post office. He checks to make sure the seniors in the neighborhood are okay. I imagine G.M. would rush by, figuring it was none of his concern.

I know, our jobs aren’t always a barrel of fun every day. Maybe Grouchy Mailman’s back hurts. Maybe he got chased by a dog. But he’s not helping himself by having a bad attitude. We can dread each day and grumble and complain. I do that sometimes. But we can also take the very same situation and put our heart into it and ask God to use us in some way that will honor him. I always ask God to guide my words as I write.

I like to think of these two mailmen; mine and my mother-in-laws. One grumbling and giving poor service, and the other smiling and seeking ways to go above and beyond to help others. Same job. Same town. Similar circumstances. Different attitude.

God, please don’t let me be a grouchy mailman today.

What I Learned From my Dog: Kelly must be a good judge of character. She doesn’t like the mailman either.