There I was, standing in the Burnsville Post Office, staring at a pile of work. I had 21 books to mail that each required 5 stamps. (Yes, that’s 105 stamps total.) It was 5:36 pm and the deadline for pickup that day was 5:45. The clock was ticking so loud I could barely think straight. I felt dizzy and unsure of myself. There was no way I was going to get these stamped and in the mail slot in time. Arrggh!
Then, through the door walked the answer to my dilemma, though I didn’t yet realize it. She walked past my “work station” where I had my piles of books and stamps spread out. She glanced over but said nothing and kept walking, toward the post office boxes. Not long after she came back and was headed for the door. But instead of exiting the building, she veered toward me. With a look of friendly concern she asked “Would you like some help?”.
I was momentarily stunned. Crazy questions ran through my fuzzy brain. Was she talking to me? Do I know her? Why did she notice or even care about me? What’s going on here? Surprised by this simple request, I struggled to muster a suitable response. Finally my auto-reflex kicked in. Being a proper Minnesotan I declined. “No thanks, I’m fine.”
But I wasn’t fine. I was fighting a hard deadline and I was losing. So within microseconds I changed course and said “Actually, I’m not fine. I really could use some help.”
She smiled and stepped over to the counter I was using. Working opposite me she grabbed some books and stamps and got to work. She was fast, neat and organized. Instantly the world changed. Now I had help beating this deadline. What seemed so imposing just minutes ago now seemed achievable. Soon, we were done and the books were on their way to a waiting postal employee, on time!
All because a kind stranger took time to help.
I left there feeling good but conflicted. I loved that fact that someone I never met before took the time to notice I could use some help. And she acted on it – she helped! Especially at a time of day when most of us are racing to wrap up our work and get home to start our evenings. She was as gracious as she was capable, both fast and friendly.
Yet, I still felt a little uncomfortable. I think it’s because this is so unusual. It’s not what I expected. People don’t seem to go out of their way anymore to notice and help others. I think that’s what bothered me. This lady’s actions were such a glaring contrast to what we expect and what we experience every day. And her actions reminded me that I could (and should) do a better job reaching out and helping others.
In a word, this is experience was all about service. And the lady in the post office reminded me what true service is.