I recently hired a new delivery person. We rarely have any changes in our delivery staff, and I am really picky about who delivers your paper. The new person – Lynn – was someone who I liked the minute we struck up a conversation. She was middle-aged, articulate, dignified and composed. She was a single mom, I believe, and had a full-time job working in the legal field. She wanted to supplement her income by working very part-time delivering one of our routes. She told me that she would have help with the route from her son, who was in college. I met her son and liked him a lot also – especially when I saw him drive up in his 1985 Mercedes 300 DL – a car for which I have searched for many years. His mom told me that he very much looked after her and they enjoyed spending time together. When I heard that, I knew we had a good match for the paper.
Fast forward about a month. My middle-aged, dignified and articulate mom and her son quit. They texted me late at night after they had finished their route and thanked me for having given them the opportunity, but said that after the incidents of the night that they just couldn’t continue. To their credit, they finished the route and, not surprisingly, they had the class and the dignity to not cast stones in anger at what they had encountered. The mom simply said that she was terrified and just didn’t think she could face any similar encounters.
So what happened? There were two incidents, and I share this with you because I want you to realize that the people who are delivering your papers to you every week – all 400-plus subdivisions and more than 70,000 homes – are no different than your son or daughter, mother or father, neighbor or close friend. About half of them are moms with young kids in school who do yeoman’s work balancing their duties as wife, school mom, newspaper delivery person, PTA president, good neighbor, deacon and friend. Some are retired couples, and they deliver your paper because they want to stay busy and they want to do something together.
I’ll never forget the woman who came to me after her husband died to tell me how grateful she was for my having given her their route.
“That was the most precious time in my life, delivering the papers with him every week,” she told me. “I had no idea he was going to die of cancer, and if we hadn’t been delivering your paper, I would not have had that time with him to talk and just be together.”
Some of your delivery folks have practically raised their kids doing their routes. I have one mom who used to drive with two toddlers in their car seats in the back – plus another two or three in school too. I have no idea how she did it or does it. In several cases, entire families deliver your paper to you and have, in one case, for over 20 years.
The folks who are delivering your papers are some of the hardest working people I have ever met in my life. And I think they are probably some of the nicest I have ever had the pleasure to know. I will tell you, they inspire me as much as anyone ever has.
So what occurred on the delivery route that night that made my mom and her son feel like they could no longer work this job? Well a man got in front of their car and just started screaming at my mom and her son – cursing her out and threatening her because she was “trespassing in his neighborhood” (on the public road). Then he kicked in the side of her car before she had the chance to leave. This was not the first time something like this had happened. The other incident was more benign. A woman walking her dog shined a flashlight into the windshield and my mom couldn’t see. She thought she was going to run off the road. The same woman called me the next day to complain about my mom speeding in her neighborhood so, yes, I realize that there are usually two sides to every story. What you see often depends on what you have seen. I get that.
After I gave my mom a couple days, I asked her again if she was sure she wanted to quit the route. She said that she had not changed her mind.
The next day, I reached out to her a third time and said, “I understand. Let me know if you want me to call you later if I get a better, friendlier route open …like a Windward or something.”
She thought about it for a moment and then answered, “That would be great.”
That would be great.
So I told you this story because I want you to have patience and maybe respect for the folks who deliver your newspaper. But more than that, I want to ask you to show more kindness, patience and empathy for everyone around you. Don’t honk your horn. Don’t lose patience with the older driver in front of you. Don’t hurt someone with Twitter or Facebook or texting. Don’t be in such a hurry that you have to be rude or ugly to someone. Slow down.
These are not easy times in which we live. It is so very hard today – especially for our young people. And the example you set for them, they will emulate. If you are not kind, they will not be kind. If you are rude and hurtful, they will be rude and hurtful. If you abuse yourself with drugs and alcohol, so will they. I promise. You personally – your actions – do make a difference.
We are all painting on the same canvas and your brush strokes will last forever. Paint something beautiful. Try to make this world we share better – not worse. We all have to live here.
Let me leave you with two thoughts that are on my radar screen:
“It is always better, no matter what excuse there is for not being kind, to be kind, to be loving.” – Viggo Mortensen in an interview about his role in the movie “The Road”
“Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” – Anonymous