WATERTOWN — It’s easy to overlook the way some people enhance our lives.
Think of the letter carrier from the U.S. Postal Service who faithfully brings your mail to your home every day of the week. The USPS as an entity certainly has its share of problems, mainly financial. But for a small fee per letter, we get extraordinary service from its personnel.
A well-known inscription on the James Farley Post Office in New York City says it all: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” And given that the past year has included a health care crisis and a national election, USPS staffers have performed brilliantly.
Remember also the crossing guards who ensure your children make it across our busy streets while walking to and from school. They perform a vital service for local families throughout the academic year, one that many people take for granted.
There are numerous individuals who serve us in important ways each day. Their efficiency makes it easy for us to forget about them and the work they regularly perform.
It’s customary to offer money or modest gifts to these people around Christmas. For some individuals in service-related industries who don’t earn huge salaries, holiday tips are a great way to make ends meet at the end of the year. But perhaps the biggest impact that tipping has on most people is that it shows you cared enough to think of them during this season.
I previously worked a couple of jobs where holiday tipping was a big deal. And given the low wages each position paid, the generosity of the people I served meant a lot to me.
For one of these jobs, I drove a bus for a senior citizen transportation program operated by a township in the southwest suburbs of Chicago. We picked up elderly and handicapped individuals each day to bring them to medical appointments, gather at a senior center, go shopping or catch public transportation for work.
The people I picked up twice a week to go shopping at super markets were very good about tips. As drivers, we would help load and unload their groceries, and our clients were quite appreciative.
Nothing, however, prepared me for the tips I received in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Mostly everyone I picked up handed me an envelope with money in it. Other people had small items, gift certificates or baked goods.
Their generosity was overwhelming. To realize that so many people went to the trouble to provide me with something was incredible.
A few years later, I spent a few months delivering newspapers by car in the morning. It was a period when I really needed to earn some extra income, and this allowed me to do that while maintaining my full-time job.
For me, this was a temporary arrangement. But all of the other people I worked with had been doing this for years to supplement their other income.
And the tips they made at Christmas each year made quite a difference for them, particularly when it came to buying gifts for others.
Again, I was bowled over by how generous people were with tips for me. To know that they would be mindful of someone who stops at their house in the middle of the night to drop off a newspaper felt wonderful.
One homeowner on my route really surprised me. On Christmas Eve, I saw him standing by his front door at about 3 a.m. waiting for me. He came out, handed me an envelope and thanked me for my service each day.
Many people are struggling financially these days as a result of the novel coronavirus pandemic, and tight household budgets make it easier to neglect offering tips to others. I don’t blame people if they are reluctant to reach deeper into their wallets and purses to dispense more cash. The sluggish economy and lockdown mandates have made things hard on just about everyone.
So I’m not suggesting that people go crazy and throw dollar bills at everyone they come across. We all have to be sensible with the money we have, and this means being selective about whom we’ll tip.
And expressing appreciation for good service doesn’t necessarily have to involve money. A handwritten note or card will often suffice.
But in this season of giving, it’s good to convey our gratitude to people who serve us in large ways and small. So keep a few people in mind whose work on your behalf usually goes unnoticed and let them know they are in your thoughts. Ending this year with such a kind gesture will go a long way toward ensuring their continued exceptional service next year.
Jerry Moore is the editorial page editor for the Watertown Daily Times. Readers may call him at 315-661-2369 or send emails to email@example.com. They also may follow him on Twitter: @WDT_OpEd.