No, I don't have a crush on him. (We have to say that, right, in a culture that equates love with romance?) But I do think our mailman Ruben is a stellar example of "love at work" -- a spirit of love embodied in the workplace -- and for that he has my utmost respect. He has found a way to enjoy the task that eats up most of his waking hours, and this places him in the small minority among Americans.
More than once I've wondered how he gets his job done on time. Always willing to say hello, never giving off the feeling that he'd rather rush from house to house than spend a moment saying hi, he has a Buddha-like presence that's profoundly admirable. He is present. How many of us bring true presence to our working moments, day in, day out?
He wears a smiley face button on his hat and it's quite possible that iconic grin was made in his impression.
As I walk the neighborhood with my napping toddler, I notice him zipping along with letters in hand, always seeming to smile from the inside out. He chooses joy.
There is something simple about Ruben... a feeling that he isn't here to prove anything, that he just wants to enjoy life. And he does! From what I can tell, he has found a way to live in a contended state of mind, something most humans strive for to the grave.
Without knowing it, Ruben probably brings therapeutic wellness to dozens of people on a daily basis. We don't pay him anything (except a miniscule percentage of a penny from income taxes) and he loyally delivers the mail to us every day he works.
Is the U.S. Postal Service, his employer, partially responsible? Judging from the bulk of postal workers I've met in my life, as someone who's written and mailed 1000's of letters, I highly doubt it.
I think it's just Ruben. It is what he's chosen. He wants to enjoy his life and he has, through some of the simplest and most profound of values -- presence, joy, contentedness -- found a way to do that.
Dear Bike Nerd,
I was having lunch with a friend and his baby boy
crunchy Romaine and thin sliced red onions
in the shade until the sun moved
heavy on my shoulders
pushing us back
out into the day again
My creamy key lime commuter bike Felicia
rested steady on the sidewalk
locked up, graceful
awaiting another spin in the June breeze
You left a note on my handlebar
must have stood admiring
her rear internal hub
or her fine whispering hue
her way of moving you even
as she stood
Yes I ought to
replace those pedals soon.
But if I had done so already,
I might've missed your
cafe sleeve reminder that we live
in a safe and
Felicia's friend Jessica
Dear Mr. Rogers,
As the slowness of this holiday sits in the air, you are thick on my mind. I come to my computer to get "work" done yet find there's nothing more worthwhile than watching clips of your old TV show. Your strong, gentle voice, your unabashed reverence for children and simple, profound principles like kindness, compassion and friendship...
Your Emmy acceptance speech for the Lifetime Achievement Award has me deep in thought, wondering how I might direct my desire to express love through a medium I struggle with, the TV of our time. Just as you "hated" television (such a strong word for highly sensitive souls like us to use, yet I can relate) and worked to use it as a tool for good, I wonder how I might turn my significant distaste for our cultural mindlessness around smartphone/computers -- a far more complex machines than TVs -- into something as powerful as your show did.
When I was a kid in the 70s and 80s I watched your show every day. You've probably had as much of a parenting imprint on me as my parents. Twenty-two years ago (more than half my life), I stopped watching TV, and I had almost forgotten that my worldview and ways have been significantly shaped by your teachings and your show. It's almost as if I would only be a fraction of the person I am without your imprint on my most formative early childhood years.
The way you captivated this 1969 Senate hearing, luring its leader into a devotee of your simple "expression of care" ... only Love can melt a room like this.
Lately it has become obvious we all have an artist within us, longing to burst out and take center stage. Whether it's frisbee or mountain bike racing, cooking, piano or painting, inside each and every one of us there is at least one place, one experience, where presence and joy hold our attention outside of space and time.
You were born and you died in the sign of Pisces, the sign most associated with artists. I never met you in person, but I wonder what you would have to say about yourself as an artist.
I am convinced my most important work in this life has been, and will increasingly be, related to work like yours: work with a simple, accessible message of care, truthfulness, love and friendship. The kind of work adults may "laugh off" if only for a moment, until someone close to us dies and we remember it's the basis for all good things in a healthy society -- the ethical center that guides how we treat each other.
I admire and love you dearly and forever, and I'm so glad you're on my mind today...
P.S. This song melts me. It's you... I like...
Our featured free recording for September is a 35-minute conversation with mailman Sean Lanham called Mailman Magic and the Power of Letters. You can listen here!
Jessica Rios, Founder of Leaning into Light, is a mother, coach, lifelong letter writer, and eternal fan of Mr. (Fred) Rogers. This deeply personal blog and our free recorded conversations are devoted to one of her greatest passions: illuminating the beauty of the human spirit.