Opportunities to be a community present themselves in very ordinary situations. My following anecdote has most probably been the experience of many of you, my readers.
As I stood in the long line waiting to approach the USPS clerk’s counter, I looked around me and decided to use my wait as an opportunity to observe my fellow “waiters.” For some, the long wait was noticeably a hardship. I could tell by their strained and angry- looking faces that every moment of waiting was arduous. For others, it was a chance to chat with the person in front of or in back of them in the line. Then, there were the Moms with strollers, infants, and toddlers straining to break free from their moms’ grasps so they could “search and destroy” the displays in the post-office. Some of the people were biding their time and chatting on cell phones. That was the most amusing part because there is absolutely no privacy in a postal waiting line and some of the conversations should have been taking place in private. “What are you wearing? C’mon tell me,” he coaxed, just doesn’t belong in a public forum.
I looked around to see if anyone else was in observation-analysis mode while we inched forward to the now two counters open during the lunch-hour time period. The line grew and some people began to shout out complaints about having lunch off to post mail and being served by fewer employees of the postal system during the busiest time. Then, there were the people with several boxes to ship, multiple forms to fill-out and no pen to address the labels and forms. Watching who would help and who ignored the unprepared was a lesson in who feels helpful and community-minded and who keeps to him/herself and ignores strangers.
I always carry an extra pen or two and since I get them as samples, I just give one when needed to whomever is without. When I told the woman with the three boxes, customs’ forms, insurance forms, a newborn baby in a stroller and a toddler who was “out of control” that she could use and keep my offered pen, she began to cry from overwhelm and suddenly everyone in line noticed each other and offered to help rein-in her toddler and even hold her screaming newborn.
Yes, the post-office certainly provides a glimpse into how we can act together as we wait together. Please share your experiences with us!