One thing I find that I hate to do with a toddler tagging along is go to the post office.
No, seriously - I hate it! Going downtown, driving around the block until a close parking spot opens up, standing in the long line, all the while trying to contain a little busy-bodied toddler is a bit daunting for me.
It's an errand I avoid.
But the other day, I had to do it. I had literally been putting off a trip to the post office for months. Months! Ridiculous, right? Yeah.....I know. But, this trip to the post office....something I had been dreading and purposely avoiding for so long, turned out to be quite a different experience from the one I had imagined......in the loveliest of ways.
Let me tell you the story......
It started with me driving past the post office about 3 times early in the day. I was looking for one of those 10-minute parking spots right in front of the entrance.....you know, the coveted spots that are always full. When I couldn't find one, I left and decided to come back later.
I drove around the block 4 more times.
I finally settled on a spot around the corner from the entrance. I got out of the car, got my toddler out of the back seat, and up we walked to the front door. As we walked, I prayed that the line would be short, and the service quick so that we could get in and out in less time than it took for my son to get bored and start doing something that would cause a scene, make a mess, hurt someone or.....all of the above.
When we got to the door, we were met by a very kind gentleman who greeted my son, and held the outer door open for us with a smile. I thanked him as we walked through, peeked in to see how long the line was and muttered (apparently louder than I realized) to myself "Oh my gosh....." The nice man, now standing at the inner door while I chased after Josiah who had already found something interesting to look at in the lobby, said, "Aw, that's not so bad - the line's usually out the door! C'mon......"
He held the door open for me again, letting us go ahead of him in line as he had arrived there before us.
So, there I was standing in line making mental notes of how many customers were in line ahead of me divided by the number of postal workers, trying to assess what it was that each customer was there to do and how long that would take......still hoping that this would be a quick trip. I spotted a man with 3 kids of his own with him. His children were all older than my son, but nonetheless, a brave fellow, I thought. One of his children had a bright red fireman's hat, which immediately caught the attention of my little one. So naturally, when this man and his family exited the office, my toddler tagged along, trying to take the hat for himself. I stepped out of line, grabbed him and explained why he couldn't take what didn't belong to him AND spontaneously join another family. On my way back to line, with my flailing toddler in tow, we ran into the trash can and did a little dance with it to keep if from tumbling all the way over. When I returned, I was very grateful to see that that nice man behind me still let me have my place in line ahead of him.
So now, we're back in line. I convince my 2-year-old to let me sit him up on the
counter - you know, the one they put right by the line so you can address packages and fill out forms, etc... All of a sudden, the man in front of me turns around, looks at my son and says, "Hey! I know you!" It was the proprietor from our favorite Indian restaurant. "You need to come and see me again." he said. I was glad to hear this from him because due to my son's less than desirable behavior at our last visit there, it had been awhile since we'd been back.
Even so, there was a silver lining there - you can read about it here.
When sitting on the counter had become too boring, Josiah decided it would be more fun to look at the wall of greeting cards.......and by "look," I mean touch.....pull out.....drop on floor. So again, I stepped out of line following behind him, picking up cards and trying to put them back in the proper spot. By then he had moved on to something else - a sign that was fastened to the side of a kiosk - and we were only a few spots away from the front of the line now. Somehow, my little boy figures out how to unfasten the sign, so again I rush over and fix it.
FINALLY, it was our turn! We went up to the counter. I hoisted him up and let him sit on the counter, a front row seat to all the action. The postal worker, clearly having encountered many a child in his years in this job, handled the business of shipping my package and also gave Josiah a sticker AKA a Priority Mail label. I peeled the backing off of the sticker and put it on Josiah's hand, which is where he wanted it. We finished our business, and I thanked the postal worker, and lifted my son from the counter. When I put him on the ground, he looked up at me and said, "Sticker!" I looked back at the counter to see that he had taken the sticker from his hand, and stuck it on the counter. Remember, this is a shipping label......those things are designed to NOT come off. In fact, when he had first handed it to me, the man had told me to be careful about where I put it. I joked with the postal worker that in case he ever forgot where it was that he worked.....this sticker would be a nice reminder. "Well," I said to my son, "You left your sticker up there on the counter." Sensing my son's disappointment, the postal worker handed me a second sticker. We thanked him, and off we went.....we were almost home free......almost.
We went through the first set of doors, again held open for us by a nice gentleman, and Josiah took off because the electronic self-service postage kiosk is just that amazing..... I go to grab him, only to realize that he's dropped his sticker again, so we have to back track to pick it up, and all the while, there stands this lovely man, patiently holding the door open for us to exit the building.
Whew! We had done it.
We were still in one piece, and so was the post office.
As I loaded my precious little boy into the car, I settled into the driver's seat and just reflected on what a lovely errand that had been. It was wonderful, and it had nothing to do with what my son did or didn't do, the uncertainty of which is what initially made me so anxious about it....instead, it had everything to do with how I was treated by others, and everyone in that whole place showed me grace. They held doors for me.....let me go ahead of them.....let me return to my place in line after I had stepped out countless times......they gave us stickers.....twice.... they realized that my son was 2 years old, they were ok with letting him be a 2-year-old, and they weren't judging me as a mother because he acted as such. I wasn't expecting that, and to be met with it during what was, for me, a bit of a stressful errand, was......refreshing. The last thing I expected to walk out of that post office with was a sense of refreshment.....I was ready for it to be an eventful, dreadful trip - and it was exactly the opposite.
In that moment, I realized something.....I had been shown grace in the most unlikely of situations....and that meant it could be given in the most unlikely of situations - I could give it in the most unlikely of situations.
Friends, we can experience grace anywhere, and we can lavish it on others.....anywhere.....and in doing so, we are showing the love of Christ to someone who may have met us with an entirely different set of expectations. Not only can we give it to others....we can surprise them with it.
So, I choose to show extraordinary grace, and radical love to others......especially when they least expect it, because....I happen to know.....they'll remember it.....Won't you join me?
Oh, and for the record.......we had Indian food the very next night.