He yanked his heavy overcoat out of the closet and threw its broken hanger across the room into a waste basket. “Twelve miles to Chesslie, and the whole route on Christmas Eve. Calculate in the snow…” he mumbled into his scarf as he twisted the double-breasted buttons into their holes. “We should make it back in time for dinner. However lively that will be.”
He didn’t say a word as man and dog walked out the door together. Thoughts about dinner had been quickly replaced by worry over the weather. If the local weathermen weren’t playing a joke on them, they were truly in for a storm. Seconds later, he confirmed their predictions by running his hand along the hood of his truck and absently measuring the snow. Two inches already. Getting to Chesslie was one thing but getting back was a whole other matter. Better chain up.
“Minstrel,” he called, when he was done. The dog turned her attention from the snowflakes she was barking at and bounded over to the open truck door.
Shaking the snow from her coat, Minstrel hopped up expertly onto the passenger’s seat; and Blake shut the door behind her. Tipping his head back to look up at the sky, he squinted his light eyes from the falling snow. This was no weatherman prank. Shaking his head, he prayed for safety and hoisted himself into the driver’s seat.
The truck engine sputtered to a start, and he began to ease it down the driveway. “Granny gear all the way to town, it’s looking like. Never go out before the plows,” he remarked as they moved slowly down the road. “That snow’s moving faster than we are.”
Minstrel sat up for a moment to look out the window then whined and lay back down on the seat next to him. The ancient heater did its best to drive the cold air out of the cab; but, despite its efforts and two pairs of socks, Blake found his feet were growing numb on the pedals. Turning on the radio, he listened as a static-y Christmas station and a definitely Canadian talk show mixed themselves together and came through his speakers. At least the odd noise was some company on the road. Everyone else had decided to wait for the plows.
The drive proved uneventful and maddeningly long until they pulled up outside of the Chesslie Post Office. The snow wasn’t as thick in town, but the parking lot was empty of all vehicles except the box-like white trucks that covered the town routes. He was the only rural mailman that had dared to come. Better to be out in the snow than dying of bored loneliness at home.
Jumping down from the truck, he untangled his arm from the seatbelt and slammed the snowy door behind him. A few uniformed mailmen glanced over at him before getting into their own vehicles. Giving a goofy salute after them, he said ruefully, “Yes, sir, the hick is here.”
Stamping his boots together and doing his best to dust some snow off his coat, Blake looked up in time to see a young woman coming towards the door with a large package in her arms. He opened the door and moved politely aside, saying, “Last minute gift, eh?”
She looked up with a bright smile. “That’s right. I do hope they get it in time for Christmas day.”
Blake glanced at the package again. Something about it struck him as odd, and she voiced his thoughts a moment later. “No address, I know. I really don’t know who it’s for yet.” She grinned sheepishly.
He lifted one eyebrow in surprise, but she didn’t tell him any more. He was still thinking about this odd exchange as he pulled out of the parking lot with his load of mail. “You know, Minstrel, I bet a lot of people are hoping this mail will get to its owners in time for Christmas just like she did. Maybe I didn’t come to work today just because I was bored and certifiably insane.”
He reached down to scratch the patient dog’s ears. “Maybe it’s my Christmas mission from God. That’s really not as goofy as it sounds—it could be really important to Him that people get their mail. He knows about swallows and hair and stuff. He of course knows about the mail.”
Blake sat up a little straighter. It was all he could do at the moment to “work as unto the Lord and not to men”, but he whistled a Christmas carol with renewed purpose. The plows had been through, but the snow was still falling; and he watched the road carefully for any signs of ice.
Suddenly, Minstrel sat up and barked. Peering ahead through the frosty windshield, he saw a minivan pulled off the side of the road. Five very bundled up people were standing in a circle nearby with their heads bowed. Blake slowed down next to them and rolled down the window. The sound of his idling motor made them open their eyes, and he said cheerfully, “Need a shovel?”
The tallest one, probably the father, waded towards him and pulled his scarf away from his mouth. “Thanks for the offer,” he replied, “but it’s actually broken down.”
“Sure thing,” Blake said. He put his foot on the pedal and was about to drive away when a thought struck him. “Hey, where do you need to go?”
The bearded man turned back around and came up to his window again. “Just up the hill. We live in the community up there.”
“So do I. It’s my route. Hop in if you like,” he offered.
The family looked at each other, then one of them opened the side door and the others piled in. Minstrel moved to the floor, and the father and one of his children took her place on the front bench.
“You know,” the father began a little uncomfortably. “You’re an answer to our prayers.”
Blake grinned widely and slapped his knee. “I knew He sent me to work today for more reason than just my being bored.”
The family smiled too and began to lift their voices together in beautiful Christmas carols. Who needed a static-y Canadian-Christmas-talk-show-station now? The beautiful music filled the cab and already the frigid day seemed warmer. The mailman found himself not minding granny gear so much anymore, and Minstrel fell asleep from the fond pats the pink-nosed little boy gave her.
They continued up the hill before stopping at the first house, and Blake got out to rummage through the mail. Finding the right address, he slipped a few envelopes into the mailbox and got back in the running vehicle.
“Is this always your job?” one of the kids asked curiously.
Blake nodded in the rearview mirror. One of the boys declared that he wanted to be a mailman when he grew up causing everyone to smile. A few mailboxes later, the mother said, “Well, here’s ours.”
Blake stopped the truck and got out with them. Looking through the mail again, he said, “Oh, so you are the Andrews. I have a bit of interesting mail for you.” Smiling widely, he pulled out an oddly-shaped package addressed to the boys and handed it to one of them. Giving the rest of the mail to their father, including a green envelope, he added, “I’d better be off now.”
“Thank you, and Merry Christmas!” They said, waving as they turned towards the house.
“Same to you!” he called from his open car window.
A little farther down the road, he rolled up his window and shivered. The snow had started again. There would be many more mailboxes to get done before dark, and he only had a few hours. Luckily the post office would close early, and he didn’t have to bring any outgoing mail back tonight.
Whistling one of the cheery songs his new friends had taught him, he methodically worked his way through the route of mailboxes he had to fill. There wasn’t usually much mail on Christmas Eve, but it seemed that this year everyone got at least one piece of mail. It was always a green envelope with a gold seal just like the one he had given the Andrews family.
Everyone seemed to think he was crazy for being out, but they were also very glad to get their mail. One older lady thanked him with a cup of coffee that helped to keep him warm as the daylight began to fade. Christmas lights came on about that time and helped to show him where the next house would be.
Stopping at the second to last house, he jumped out of his truck and carried the mail up to the front steps shielding it from the snow with his coat. He rang the doorbell and waited as a voice said from within, “I’m coming, I’m coming,” accompanied by the sound of shuffling feet and a thumping cane.
A wizened old man opened the door and peered out at him.
“Merry Christmas, sir, here’s your mail,” Blake said, glad for the shelter of the porch roof.
“Same to you, and thank you,” the elderly man said gruffly, looking over his glasses at the addresses on his mail. He lingered longest over a green envelope.
“You’re welcome,” the mailman replied, shoving his mittened hands into his pockets.
“You know,” the other man said, pointing a finger at him. A wheezing laugh came up from his throat and made it impossible for him to speak for a moment. “You look as round as a snowman with so many wraps on. Could be one too with all the snow you’ve collected.”
Blake gave a wry smile. “I’ll take that as a compliment.”
“You should be called the snowman instead of the mailman. It could almost be a super hero name,” the man said, getting deeper into his joke. “You’d have to be one to be out in this weather. Either that or crazy.”
Blake laughed this time. “Merry Christmas, sir.”
One more house to deliver and only a small package and two white envelopes. No green one here. He sighed when he realized that this house was the one belonging to the pastor’s family. It had a long narrow driveway that had more than likely been neglected by the plows.
His sanity had been doubted twice that day, but he determined that he would go no farther. Braking to a stop at the bottom of the hill, he leaned back in his seat to think. The Chesslie Post Office wouldn’t mind if he turned back now and delivered the mail another day. It was definitely impossible to drive up such a steep and snowy hill. But he wasn’t working for the post office anymore. He was working “as unto the Lord”.
He made his decision. Finishing off his coffee, he declared, “Minstrel, old girl. This snowman super hero on a Christmas mail mission for God is going in. You are going with him because it’s too cold for you to stay that long in the truck.”
Jumping out, he opened the door for her like a true gentleman and tucked the mail into the front of his overcoat. “It’s going to be a long walk, but one of our New Year’s resolutions was going to be more exercise. We’ll survive.”
They did survive, but it wasn’t very pleasant hiking through drifts to deliver a few pieces of mail. The snow had stopped, and icy white stars glared down at them through patches in the receding clouds. The lights of the house soon came into view, and Blake smiled as he neared the twinkling icicle lights.
Pausing to admire the homemade wreath, he knocked on the door and waited. Minstrel sat patiently next to him only breaking from her stance to bark a greeting at the dog who really owned the place.
The front door opened, and a wave of warmth and music reached out onto the porch. “Hello, and Merry Christmas,” the pastor said with a welcoming smile. “Come for the party?”
Blake was flummoxed by this greeting. “I just brought the mail.”
“Walked here, did you?” the pastor said with surprise as the cold mailman handed him the parcels.
“Thank you very much. It’s just in time too. You’re welcome to join us. We meant to send you an invitation anyway,” the pastor replied, smiling.
“Oh, thanks for the offer, but I have my dog with me.”
The pastor looked down at Minstrel. “She’s welcome too.”
“Thank you very much, sir; and Merry Christmas to you as well.”
With these words, Blake and his dog entered the warm living room. Many people were gathered around the piano singing Christmas carols, and others chatted companionably at the refreshment tables. The Andrews waved to him, and he recognized several others to whom he had delivered mail. Removing his coats, snow boots, hat, and scarf, he handed these to the waiting pastor’s wife and joined the others around the piano.
The door opened again a little while later, and an old man came in with one of the pastor’s sons who had brought him there on the family snowmobile. He shed his coat and tottered straight over to Blake. Clapping him on the back, he said heartily, “Hello again, Mr. Snowman. Thanks for bringing me my green envelope.” He waved the invitation for the astonished mailman to see.
So, it had been important for the mail to get delivered that day! If he had stayed home, none of these people would have known to come to the party. They would certainly have missed out, and he would have too. He wouldn’t have been there to help the Andrews get home either.
“You’re welcome, sir,” he said with a smile.
Listening to the beautiful music around him, he mused over his day. He hadn’t known before why he was out delivering mail during a storm, but now it all made sense. God had used his loneliness to give many others gifts and give him one too—community.
It was certainly interesting working “as unto the Lord”.