Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: Christmas Cards (11/06/08)
- TITLE: The Last Word
By Beth Muehlhausen
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In a farming community surrounded by Midwestern corn fields, Don Ranier served dual roles: postmaster and intercessor.
One wall of his antiquated post office lobby displayed rows of small bronze-colored boxes with peep-holes, each one wearing painted red numbers. Every family for several miles in any direction rented one of these mailboxes. Our number was sixty-eight.
Next to them a single service window opened into the back room: Don’s office. Whenever a patron needed to purchase stamps, send a package, or collect an item too big for the post office box to hold, he or she stood at the window and called Don.
“Hey! How’s it going back there?”
Don would most likely be tilted back in his swivel chair with both feet on the old wooden desk, his glasses perched low on his nose, reading something that had to do with history: people, places, politics. His thinning hair often stuck out in every direction; a shirt button might be missing where his well-padded belly had stretched it to the breaking point.
“Oh! Hi there! What can I do for you?” He’d gingerly push himself upright, hands on knees, and amble over to the window while making eye contact over the tops of his smudged, speckled wire-rims.
One day I had a couple of matters of postal business to conduct.
“Hey Don! How’s it going?”
His chair squealed as he rose. “Hello there, young lady! What do you need?”
“Well first, here’s this yellow claim card that was in my box. I guess I have a package?”
“Let me look … um, sixty-eight is your number, right? And let’s see here … looks like something from Texas? A Christmas gift, I presume …”
“Yeah, I think so … thanks, Don!” I bent over to drop the heavy box at my feet and exchange it for an overstuffed plastic sack full of envelopes that I plopped back up onto the ledge. “Here are all of my Christmas cards, over a hundred. I’m GLAD they’re finished, finally! So now you’ll have something to do this afternoon, huh?!”
Don’s laugh rumbled from some deep internal reservoir. “Oh for sure! All you Christmas-card-senders just don’t give a man a moment’s rest these days.”
I smiled and nodded. “Gotta keep you in practice, Don. It’s my job, you know.”
“Oh gee, thanks … can’t get too lazy! Never fear – I’ll take care of these for you, alright.”
“Thanks a bunch! So now I’m heading back home to bake Christmas cookies … probably will make a ton today and freeze them.”
Don’s face tilted quizzically to one side. “Need a quality control person? It’s my job, you know!” His fingers drummed with mock nervousness.
“Ah sure, someone’s got to do it, right? I’ll bring you a couple tomorrow. Sugar cookies, pumpkin bars, or … ?”
“It’s a deal!” He grinned, ear-to-ear. “One of each!”
“No problem. See ya, Don.”
As soon as I stepped out the door Don dumped my cards onto his desk, shaped them into piles, and closed in reverence for the One whose birthday would soon be celebrated.
“Lord, these are going all over the map, no doubt to places I’ve never been and will never go. But I’m using this opportunity to pray for these people … to ask for Your blessing on their lives this Christmas.”
He opened his inkpad and began hand-canceling postage stamps, praying over each Christmas card in turn.
“Convict those at this address of their need for You.” Stamp.
“Show them Your sovereignty.” Stamp.
“Reveal Your holiness as Son of the Most High God.” Stamp.
“Enable those who read this card to submit to You.” Stamp.
“Humble their hearts.” Stamp.
“Strengthen them.” Stamp.
“Let this card be like manna in the desert.” Stamp.
“And this one – more manna, just the right measure.” Stamp.
The next day I returned with a small cellophane-covered paper plate in hand.
“Hey Don! How’d it go yesterday?”
Don rose slowly, in characteristic fashion, and lumbered to the service window. “Loved every minute, yes siree! Great fun.”
I handed him the cookie plate. “Here’s your payment – a sugar cookie and pumpkin bar plus a mint brownie and Mexican wedding cake for good measure.”
His expression froze while he stared beyond me for a few seconds. “You know, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’.”
I thought that sounded philosophical, something maybe he read in one of his history books. Don always did seem to manage to have the last word.
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