Post by contributor, Marissa
When I was a child, I lived a way up back in the woods in an old logging camp. With no electricity or even running water for some years, let’s just say that there weren’t many public services being provided.
However, throughout the winter months after each snow, a grader or plow truck always came to clear the road past our place and often into our long driveway. Usually just before Christmas the truck would drive by and my sisters would put together a plate of baked goodies and when he would come by again, someone would run out to give him the plate as our simple thank-you.
I still have a very clear memory of the excitement we felt listening for the loud grating sound that signaled the truck on it’s way back past, and then watching my sister quickly running and hoping that she made it before he passed. Great entertainment when you live a remote place!
I must say, I don’t ever remember a discussion about why we did that. I only know that if someone came to fix something or to shoe our horses or even just drop something off, the coffee pot was put on and most often baking or a meal was shared. It was one of the ways that I believe I learned how to express gratitude and care for others.
Our family Christmas is quite simple; mostly by choice, mostly by necessity (I can’t figure out which one rules). We decorate with natural (free) greenery and berries that we find in our backyard. We have our five Christmas baking favorites (Gluten Free) that the girls and I make together mid-December to be enjoyed during the days of Christmas.
Our gifts are few and very simple. While extravagance as an expression of love is a great thing, it’s just not where we are at in life and so we’ve chosen to infuse our more humble Christmas cheer right full of love. Our stockings may be filled with this year’s supply of needs such as socks and underwear and toothbrushes but the joy and love that goes into filling them and the excitement with which they are received is truly extravagant indeed.
As we give our girls love filled gifts that encourage them in learning the gratitude and delight of being generous gift receivers, we also want to help them in the practice of being generous, thoughtful gift givers.
One of the ways that we are doing that is by carrying on the tradition of preparing a small gift for the public service providers who help care for our family.
Note: I’ve observed that this is a practice that is still alive and well in more rural areas; we aren’t the only ones who do this around here. But perhaps this isn’t something you are familiar with and would like to start as a tradition in your family.
We like to do this at Christmas time as part of the month of Advent, but really expressing your thanks to someone at any time of the year will brighten their day!
Make a list of Public Service Workers who you appreciate and would like to thank:
This could be Waste Collection Workers, Librarian, Police, Postal Service, Health Providers and so on.
Choose a gift:
In rural Nova Scotia, a homemade plate of goodies is still quite acceptable and welcome which is what we do. We do up small paper plates with either an assortment of our Christmas baking or one item such as Gingerbread people.
However, in more urban areas, or for those who don’t have time to give to baking, there are great options. Perhaps a gift card to a local coffee shop that would cover a hot beverage and treat or sealed box of chocolates would be a better option.
It also doesn’t have be an edible gift, have your children make an ornament or some nice beeswax candles. You could also keep it very low cost by simply giving a homemade card or picture. That is what we will do for some of the people that we wish to thank and say Merry Christmas to. I think the key is to keep it simple and something that is enjoyable and doable for your family.
Make it personal:
Have your children draw a picture or write in a card. Talk together about what you appreciate about the service provided as you decide what to write in a card. And take the time to express that in what you write.
Depending on the who you are giving it to, you may need to figure out how to deliver it. In our location, we set out the plate of goodies in weather safe wrapping, clearly marked for the garbage collection people, on garbage pick up day. We set a small package in our mail slot for postal service. Usually to the librarian or police station, a personal delivery is more appropriate. For health care providers a card is sent in the mail.
Have you ever shown appreciation to public service workers?
“Make one person happy each day and in forty years you will have made 14,600 human beings happy for a little time at least.” – Charles Wiley
My husband is a mail carrier who needs to eat gluten free. Even though he gets a ton of cookies he can’t eat he still appreciates the thoughtfulness of his customers thinking of him. He shares some of the baked goods bounty with the other people at the post office and we take the rest to parties. I appreciate that because it relieves me from having to bake something for the parties.
Too bad he isn’t our mail carrier! We only make gluten free! I often think about that with our baked gifts because with a daughter with Celiac disease, I am well acquainted with dietary needs and I don’t like the thought of giving a gift that can’t be eaten by the receiver. At this point though time wise and financially it’s either sharing some baked goods or giving a card so I always just hope for the best and that they feel the care and appreciation behind the gesture:).
I wish he was your mailman for more reasons than gluten free cookies. I absolutely love Nova Scotia! Years ago I went on a bike tour of Cape Breton Island. I fell in love with the beautiful countryside and the friendly people. It was my favorite vacation ever and I’ve always wanted to return.
So here are my thoughts:
1. Public workers who actively solicit gifts do not get any from me. We had notices (back in Minneapolis) from our garbage collectors that even included an envelope to provide cash for them…. they specifically requested only monetary gifts. That is a little too weird for me. Especially when they complain a lot about trees, alleyways, or refuse to pick up the garbage if the lid doesn’t completely close on the garbage bin. Seriously.
2. I have a business that ships packages out from home. ( http://www.purifyyourbody.com ) many times I have dozens of packages that need to be picked up by our mailman. In Minneapolis, the mail carrier would get extra $$ for each package they picked up priority mail, on their route. But in Utah, they didn’t do it that way so when I moved to Utah last year, the first day there I introduced myself to my mailman and befriended him (not to mention I think he looks like a young Tommy Lee Jones!)
I give about $50 to $100 cash with a Christmas card, to the mail carrier. They have gone the extra mile for me many times. I know people who have horror stories with their mail carrier, but thankfully I have never had that issue.
3. Another comment I have is that Christmas treats are not always welcome. My sister is now mailing out my packages for me, and when the mailman came yesterday, she waved him down “wait, I have something for you!” she said. He replied (in a joking manner) “Oh, my diabetes!” and all she was doing was giving him a cash gift like I requested her to…. (I am currently out of the country so she is filling my orders for me).
He said he gets tons of Christmas treats that he can’t eat, but is so tempted to eat. Due to health restrictions, he is unable to 🙁 The card (even without money) and a sincere thanks would be his preferred gift of choice.
I’ve never been solicited for a gift from a public worker and have only been met with appreciation but I agree that would also make me uncomfortable…however, I guess for reasons such as health needs or safety such as you mentioned with your postal worker, perhaps this was the solution they came up with(not the greatest one and very impersonal for sure)!
We could just do a card but our girls so enjoy making and putting together a special plate for each person that we just continue and hope they are able to enjoy them