On January 8th, I had the opportunity to become a community activist and after attending a town meeting, I am pleased to say I played a part in saving Sunderland’s post office from closure. Sunderland is a small town of about 3500, which means we have a tiny post office with only a couple of employees and a handful of post office boxes. The building itself is tucked away on a residential side street, and although it might seem antiquated, it’s a part of our town that is worth saving.
Why was saving our post office so important to me? Anyone who knows me knows that I write letters. Lots of letters. I might seem hopelessly stuck in the past, but I’m on a first name basis with our postmaster, Ronnie. I try to pay him a visit at least once a month to see what new stamps he has, and when I mail packages to my niece and nephew, I send them with boxes and envelopes I purchase from him. I could go a couple of miles up the street to the South Deerfield post office, or I could drive to Amherst for stamps but I’d much rather use my local post office. The Amherst branch is notoriously slow and it doesn’t provide good customer service. Quite the contrary, some of the employees are grumpy and rude. They do have an automated station where you can buy a postage label after hours and I’ve used it on occasion, but if I have to interact with an actual person, I don’t do it there. At least in Sunderland, I know the post office appreciates my patronage.
I also rallied behind our post office because I simply can’t fathom living in a town without on. Sure, I could go elsewhere to buy stamps and mail packages – heck I could even do that online (the irony of which is not lost on me), but that’s not the point. A post office connects people whether they’re in neighboring towns or across the world. At one time in our history, the post office was the only way loved ones who lived far apart could keep in touch. A letter was considered as much of a personal memento as a photograph or a calling card. The downfall of the postal service probably truly began when the telegraph was invented. After that, the telephone allowed us to instantly speak to people across long distances. Emails and text messages are just the latest devices to do so, and with the advent of the internet, bills need no longer come to us by the postal service. A post office allows you a tangible and permanent means of communication in a world where most people interact through transient digital media. It would be overstating things to say that the connections we make through pen and paper keep us human, but I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t send a personal handwritten part of myself through the mail. Thanks to the residents of Sunderland, I don’t have to give up my passion for real letters; for the time being, when I send something through the mail, I can be assured that a cost-effective and (somewhat) reliable delivery service will provide my family with the joy and fun of receiving something that comes from my heart.