My grandfather, Grant Greenlee, delivered the mail for the post office in Horton, Missouri. He made his rounds in a one-seat buggy, drawn by a large horse. The buggy had a top and curtains with isinglass windows that could be snapped on when it was cold or raining.
Grandfather lived in town, and we lived a block away. All the people in town got their mail at the general store. They had mail boxes with glass fronts so that they could see if they had any mail. If they did, the store owner would go behind the partition and hand them their mail.
My grandfather’s job was to deliver the mail in the rural areas. I knew it was an important job because it was government business. He would tell me how the mail always had to be delivered. When I was about 9, I got to go with him once on his rounds. It was pretty cold, even with the curtains on, so my grandmother gave him some heated bricks, which he wrapped in gunny sacks and put on the floor of the buggy to keep our feet warm.
We clip-clopped along until we came to a mailbox. He told me little tidbits about the families — whether they were well off or had bad luck with their farming. I remember when we got to one particular family, he tucked a loaf of bread and a package of some kind of meat into the box. Grandfather said they had a child that was sick. Joe, one of their children, was in my class at school. I had always looked down on him because his family was poor. But as I learned about compassion from my grandfather, that changed my attitude toward him.
It also helped me understand more about our teacher in our one-room schoolhouse. Almost every day in the winter, she made soup on the top of the potbellied stove, and each child was asked to bring something for the soup. You were really in the doghouse if you forgot, which I did occasionally. But I never forgot after that buggy ride, delivering mail and food with grandfather.
This article originally appeared in Roadrunner Extra!, the resident newsletter of Beatitudes Campus.