Giving makes us feel happy. Giving is good for our health, deepens social connections, and evokes gratitude. Giving is simply contagious!
Though our hearts are still inclined toward giving gifts, maybe now more than ever, since our introduction to the internet and online shopping over the past couple of decades, and even more since the pandemic in 2020, the face of Christmas giving has dramatically changed. The holidays we spent in quarantine conditions made it necessary to give to our friends and family without the benefit of sharing the same spaces. Now we find that whether we are on our couches or in our cars, in a public place or in the privacy of our own homes, there is a strong possibility in the months leading up to Christmas that we are browsing online to see what we can buy for those we love and sometimes having it delivered right to their doors!
Online shopping has changed the world of retail as we once knew it. According to the 2021 holiday report by Adobe, since the 2020 COVID pandemic, November and December 2021 saw Americans spend $204 billion online, almost ten percent more than they did in 2020. This rising trend filters down and changes the seasonal duties of our United States Postal Service (USPS) workers. USPS employees have become Santa’s real helpers. They are the boots-on-the-ground, dressed in their postal blues, delivering all our favorite gifts and cards. Now we get even more excited when we see those white trucks with their trademark blue eagles entering our neighborhoods, and we peek out our front doors much more frequently to see if that special package has been delivered.
James Rutledge, a USPS postal worker here in Texarkana, shared, “When I started, we got mostly Christmas cards. With technology today, we don’t get as many cards anymore, but online shopping has increased the volume a lot.”
Rutledge, 57, graduated from high school in 1984. He has been married to his wife, Jamie, for ten years. They have seven children, five girls and two boys, and seven beautiful grandchildren. After graduating high school, he joined the military and served four years in the Army. After completing his military service, he believes it was “fate” that led him to the post office. “I didn’t have a clue what to do. Someone in conversation told me they thought the post office was hiring and here we are 29 years later.”
As the workload is much heavier during the holiday season, the USPS allows employees like Rutledge to come in earlier to deliver before they start their usual routes. They also hire an additional 28,000 employees nationwide to help deliver for the holidays. Although this increased workload can be exhausting and stressful, Rutledge is glad to have the opportunity. “Just to know you are possibly bringing that last-minute gift or card is such a great feeling. To see the joy on people’s faces and the multiple ‘thank yous’ we receive puts a smile on my face and makes me feel good inside.”
In addition to the holiday magic the USPS works so hard to deliver, they have created a program called Operation Santa that gives us the opportunity to join with them and participate in bringing joy to children everywhere. Thousands of letters to Santa are received every year and have been handled by the USPS now for over a century. Through Operation Santa, the letters are carefully sorted, scanned, and posted with the child’s personal information hidden. Generous people can go to the website and adopt a letter, shop to find the perfect gifts, and purchase them to help Santa fulfill the Christmas wishes of the hopeful child. The gifts are then shipped on behalf of the North Pole. Information about how you can get involved can be found at www.uspsoperationsanta.com. “It’s so neat to see what kids are asking for and the excitement they have when you pick [their letters] up and tell them, ‘I’ll send it to Santa today,’” said Rutledge.
Mail carriers work tirelessly to deliver our correspondence and packages day in and day out—especially around the holidays. It can be rough out there for these postal employees, especially if their route is in an area where they experience a lot of inclement weather or other obstacles. If your mail carrier has been serving your neighborhood for a long time, you may get to know them on a more personal level. Whatever the situation is, it is not uncommon to feel inclined to gift them something for their efforts. Under federal regulations, mail carriers may receive gifts worth $20 or less. However, keep in mind they cannot accept cash, gift cards, or checks—anything that can be exchanged for cash. “Mail carriers love and appreciate food,” said Rutledge. “I have received cookies, brownies and even a bag of pecans straight from someone’s yard. The cards we receive also especially acknowledge all our hard work during this time of year and make us all feel very appreciated.”
Romans 12:6 in the Bible reminds us that “God, through Christ, has given each of us gifts to use for his glory” and the holidays can be a great time to use those gifts for that purpose—to shine the light of Jesus while bringing joy to others. Mail carriers do just that. They deliver joy daily. The mail carrier’s motto says, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” These days I think it is safe to add “global pandemic” and “holiday gift delivery” to the list of things that our loyal and hard-working postal employees are ready and willing to overcome in order to complete their rounds, and they are doing it with a smile. “What I like most about my job,” explained Rutledge, “are the friendships I have made over the years with my customers and the opportunity I have had to serve my community.
Visit the USPS Holiday Newsroom at about.usps.com/holidaynews for holiday tips, videos, and resources.