I recently came across a terrific story about an extraordinary man who just happens to work in a post office. His name is Mike Herr, and he is the face of the U.S. postal service for 40,000 students at State College, Pennsylvania. I'd like to tell you a bit about him.
He works in a one-man post office at Penn State University, and he is probably the most popular guy on campus. I mean, if you show up wearing a cool pair of sneakers, he stops what he's doing, rings a bell he keeps close at hand and holds up a sign that says "Nice Sneakers." One girl is quoted as saying she will wait in line for one stamp, wearing her special sneakers just to have him hold up the sign. He has a rubber stamp that the students will request for belated birthday cards. It says, "I Sent This Last Week." One wall in his office is covered with pictures of former students. For those who can't wrap a package, he holds special wrapping classes on Tuesdays at the strange hour of 6:03 a.m. They come, probably as much for the fresh sticky buns he feeds them. He's abviously a favorite with the students, and since he is partial to cookies, the students keep him in good supply which he then turns around and shares with them. There is even a "Cookie-of-the-month" list on the wall. The article went on to say that he enjoys challenges, like the time someone brought in a cococut. He carved in the address, secured the postage and marked it fragile. It arrived at its destination without a hitch. And he loves a good prank, like when he walked into the back with a package marked "fragile, " then picked up a box filled with loose metal and let it drop.
My favorite part of this wonderful story is when a new postmaster showed up and ordered all the paraphenalia that wasn't regulation taken down. The next day there was a crowd of protestors and University President Graham Spanier, the son of a former postmaster, sent a strong letter to the proper authorities. In no time at all, Mike's office was restored to its former glory or as the article described it, "former chaos." .
I've been thinking quite a bit about Mike the Mailman and the way he connects with the young people on that campus. At one point they brought in a vending machine. But they ended up removing it, because it wasn't being used. I wonder why. Isn't it something that these kids would rather take the extra time to stand in line than to get what they need quickly and get on to other things.
Jesus was like that. He always connected. He noticed the shoes, rang the bell and said "I see you." And the religious leaders came along and tried to stir things up because Jesus wasn't going by the book. They didn't approve of his hanging personal pictures on "their" wall or meeting peoples' needs in unorthodox ways.
Let me take it a step further. Do people feel better after being with me? When they're with me, do they sense that I really take notice of them? Do my words and actions say to them, "I see you, and I'm going to ring this little bell, and I'm going to hold up this sign saying your sneakers are nice." That's what I want to do; that's who I want to be.
By the way, if you'd like to read the entire article about Mike Herr, it was written by Dennis B. Roddy of the Associated Press. It's worth the read.