The other day I was standing behind an elderly man at the post office. After he slowly made his way to the counter he said to the postal worker, “I’ll take 2 sheets of every stamp you’ve got.” The postal worker responded hesitantly, “Oh. Ok, um, well—that’s a lot of stamps… how about I walk you through all the different kinds we have?”
“Sure,” the elderly man responded.
The postal worker proceeded to show him every stamp sheet, and he nodded to everything from Harry Potter to flower species themed stamps with “Mhm, yep. I’ll take two sheets.”
He bought $150 worth of stamps.
The postal worker joked that he wouldn’t need to make a post office trip for awhile. The elderly man chuckled, “yeah, I reckon these should last me at least a week.” He then turned his head toward me, smiled wryly and gave a wink before disappearing through the exit doors.
Ok last part didn’t happen. But the old man’s transaction intrigued me nonetheless. He looked to be in his early 90s, maybe hoping to only have to make this one last trip to the post office before meeting Jesus (I mean amen, can you blame him?).
But I walked away from the post office feeling like I’d witnessed something more poetic.
I wondered about his initiative.
I wondered if maybe this stamp splurge was the old man’s effort to save time on the mundane task of frequenting the post office in order to give more time to things that matter (like writing letters to the people he loves). And what if these stamps were his invested accountability to put more words to paper, to send more thank yous, to tell some 300+ people what he thinks about them before he goes.
I know this is a lot to assume about a total stranger stocking up on stamps at the post office. But it got me thinking. What if we were more intentional about what we do with the time we save? What if instead of taking every shortcut, we took more of the shortcuts that allow us the time and accountability for things that matter? Like buying lots of stamps and writing more notes to those we love?
We’re skilled at saving time.
But I can’t tell you how many shortcuts I’ve taken to get things done faster, only to end up on the couch scrolling through my social media feeds and eating spoonfuls of peanut butter from the jar.
We rush through so much of life without real intent. We’re in an age where “the quicker the better” has become a cultural principle, driving our investments, our technological advancements, which line we stand in and even how we choose to interact with others.
And for what? It allows us more time with our loved ones, right? Time to host friends, time to write and reflect—at least, these are the types of things we tell ourselves all the hustle and bustle will allow.
What will we do with the time we save?
The effort to save time becomes soul sucking and we become a lot more like machines and lot less like the available people we’re trying to become.
Next time you find yourself taking a shortcut, buying in bulk or rushing through life, ask what it’s going to afford you. Are you really going to use that saved time as accountability to do something life giving or are you just piling more on and wearing yourself out?
Let’s live life more like the elderly man saving time to write more love letters, and less like hamsters on a wheel.