Thursday, December 23, 2010

A very special trip to the post office

I was among many area residents standing in a long line at the post office one recent afternoon.

Of course, I expected to wait a while as people rushed to send last minute packages to loved ones around the globe. But, my package was important, and hours-long lines could not hinder me in my quest to send it.

Some of my fellow comrades in queue were also waiting patiently. Other seemed more frazzled, and one post office employee was trying to help us all get through the process as quickly as possible. This employee, a woman, was offering to teach us all how to use the automatic postal machine, a rather handy device that allows patrons to skip the wait and process their parcels electronically. This is limited, not surprisingly, to domestic use. My package was destined for a more far away land, and therefore I was resigned to my wait.

When the helpful employee came to me in line to ask if I would like to use the automatic machine, I merely smiled and pointed to the address on my package. When she saw where it was headed, she asked if I had filled out the proper customs forms. Not knowing such forms were necessary, I told her I had not, and she gave them to me.

The woman in front of me in line turned to see what I was doing. She must have known I had never filled this form out, and she offered to help.

"Are you sending this package to a brother or a boyfriend in Afghanistan?" she asked after helping me navigate the customs forms.

I told her I was not. In fact, I have never met the young man who will receive my package. I know very little about him beyond his name. He is my adopted soldier.

The woman told me she was sending her package to her son in Iraq. I told her all about my adopted soldier, and how some of my colleagues here at The News-Herald generously donated to his (yes, late) Christmas care package. We sent him a bunch of snacks and other goodies as a way to thank him for his service.

I told her about Adopt a Soldier, a program that matches volunteers with brave men and women stationed around the world. Volunteers are encouraged to send letters and packages to these soldiers whenever they can, offering support and thanks. This cause is one I can appreciate because my big brother spent a year in Iraq while I was in college.

My new friend and I talked more about our soldiers. I told her that mine, Alex, turned 20 shortly before his deployment. I told her that I knew he liked country music and once worked as a ranch hand in Nebraska. I told her that it was pretty neat that he found me on Facebook, and how it was exciting to put a face with his name. And I told her that I hoped he liked the package and that it wouldn't be a big deal that I probably missed Christmas.

She assured me that he could hardly be disappointed in the package, late or not, and she knew from experience that soldiers were usually so excited to get mail that it rarely mattered what it was--any piece of home is comforting.

We were finally at the head of the line, and I approached the counter to have my packaged weighed and processed. As the woman was ready to send her own, she came over told me she would like to pay for the shipping on mine.

I was shocked. This kind woman was already sending her own soldier a Christmas package, and she was going to pay for another young man's gift.

I regret that I never got this woman's name. Her overwhelming kindness was moving. I already felt good having donated my time to supporting this unknown soldier, our adopted hero, and this woman's generosity made me feel that much better.

If she is reading this, and I hope she is, I just want her to know that her gesture will not soon be forgotten.

For more on Adopt a Soldier, click here.

--Danielle Capriato



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