If there’s one thing we all learned through 2020 and the pandemic that came with it, it’s that saying “thank you” can make a big difference in people’s lives. First responders, doctors, nurses, retail workers, and dozens of other essential positions put themselves in harm’s way to help keep things running while the rest of the world shut down. Knowing that we all appreciated their sacrifices helped them keep going.
The pandemic is why this year’s National Thank a Mail Carrier Day holds special significance. Mail carriers have a difficult job even in the best of times. The U.S. Postal Service’s unofficial motto says it all:
"Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."
Not a single U.S. post office shut down during the pandemic. The brave men and women that deliver our mail continued to do their job. They pushed through the changes COVID-19 brought. They were on the front lines for the 2020 election, which saw mail-in ballots at unprecedented levels. Through all of the challenges society faced last year, mail carriers persevered, living up to the promise that nothing would keep them from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.
We owe mail carriers a huge debt of gratitude. While the holiday itself, which lands each year on February 4th, has passed, your opportunity to say thanks is ever-present.
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THE HISTORY OF NATIONAL THANK A MAIL CARRIER DAY
You can go to a U.S. post office today because of the dedicated service of uncountable mail carriers and other postal workers that came before.
The postal service is one of the United State’s oldest agencies, but in reality, the service predates the country’s formation. Mail carriers have been delivering letters since 1692 when colonists organized the first mail delivery system.
The Colonial Mail Service
Back then, the work was treacherous. Horseback couriers had to ride vast stretches of untamed wilderness on the day’s long trek between destinations. But it was important work, as handwritten letters were the only form of communication available to early settlers.
As the colonies grew, so did trade and postal routes. Benjamin Franklin took over the nascent service in the mid-16th century. He instituted numerous changes to improve delivery times, eventually managing to half the trip between Philadelphia and New York City to just 33 hours! Obviously, times have changed.
Colonists came to depend on this early delivery service, even more so once plans started in earnest for the American Revolution. Franklin and his fellow revolutionaries organized an underground network of mail carriers to transport treasonous messages away from British eyes safely. These devoted couriers played an essential role in America’s victory.
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The U.S. Post Office is Born
In 1775, the Second Continental Congress officially established a U.S. Post Office with Franklin as its first Postmaster General. The Declaration of Independence hadn’t even been signed, and already the fledgling nation had a national postal service.
Early mail carriers were financed by expensive postage levied on business people and lawyers. These occupations sent the lion’s share of private mail and could afford hefty postal rates. In turn, newspapers and other mail was delivered for free. In very short order, this system became the envy of the world. By 1831, the U.S. had twice as many post offices as Britain and almost five times the number found in France.
The Pony Express
As the country expanded, the postal service grew with it. Trains began to carry mail longer distances, speeding mail delivery. But before the transcontinental railroads were finished, intrepid mail carriers had to finish the trip between Missouri and California. These dogged couriers spurred their horses to complete the 1,800-mile trek in just ten days, an astonishing accomplishment.
The U.S. Postal Service Today
The agency has been self-sufficient since the 1970s when Congress stopped taxpayer support. The rise of the internet, email, and online shopping have dramatically changed the agency’s role in modern life. Once a critical communication network, The U.S. Post Office primarily handles parcels now. But the 2020 election and the distribution of COVID-19 stimulus checks served to remind us just how important the postal service and its army of mail carriers are to our daily lives.
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HOW TO SAY “THANK YOU” TO YOUR MAIL CARRIER
If you have the chance to thank your mail carrier in person, take it. They’ll appreciate the thought, and you’ll feel good, too. But if you’re not home when your mail carrier arrives, you can still send a message.
Consider writing them a letter, getting them a card, or creating a small thank you poster. Involving your kids creates a wonderful teachable moment. Leave the thank you note in your mailbox where they can see it. Be sure to mark it in an obvious way to avoid having your hard work dropped in the mail instead of being opened by its intended recipient.
You can also include a small gift, but be aware that there are rules regarding what carriers are allowed to accept:
- Cash and cash equivalents, like checks and gift cards, are strictly forbidden. It’s tempting (and convenient) to add a Starbucks gift card to your thank you letter, but know that your mail carrier won’t be able to accept it.
- Non-cash gifts are okay as long as their value doesn’t exceed $20. Additionally, mail carriers can only accept one gift per customer, per occasion. And, they can only receive $50 worth of gifts from a single customer in a given year.
Gifts and thank you notes are excellent ways to express your gratitude, but you can indirectly say thanks by sticking a handwritten letter in the mail — maybe ten! Postage supports your local U.S. post office and your mail carrier. The more letters you send, the more you’re helping.
At Simply Noted, we work hard to support the U.S. postal service by sending tens of thousands of handwritten notes and cards every day. We mail them as quickly as our automated, ballpoint pen-wielding handwriting machines can write them. We want to send our undying gratitude to all of the mail carriers out there. Without you, our business wouldn’t be possible. So keep up the good work and thank you, thank you, THANK YOU!