For most of the past six months I have been delivering mail in the Bankers Hill area, about a mile north of the heart of downtown San Diego. My route covered about six square blocks of Class A and B offices and high rent apartments and condos. The businesses I delivered to were predominantly lawyers, dentists, and other professionals.
Two weeks ago I moved to a new route covering about nine square blocks in the East Village. The differences between the two areas could not be more palpable. Now I deliver to low-income housing, homeless shelters, and day centers for the homeless. I see a lot more people but almost never any suits and ties. The cleavage I see now is far less likely to be a from a shapely woman’s low neckline and far more likely to be an indigent’s posterior. While there is some racial diversity farther north, here I am encountering people from all over the world. Last week I met a young girl and boy—maybe 14 and 10—who moved here from Baghdad two years ago. I had a lump in my throat and tears in my eyes as I imagined what they had experienced in their young lives.
The route I’m doing now is longer: I rarely finish in much less than eight hours, compared to the six it took in Bankers Hill. It’s messier; I’m often greeted with the odor of urine—fresh or stale—when I stop to get out of my delivery van. But there is a refreshing realness to the people whose paths I cross every day. These people, by and large, are broken, but they don’t hide their brokenness. They’re messy, but they don’t mask it. Farther north, the brokenness and messes are masked by perfect manicures, nice clothes, and gated buildings.
If I have to deliver mail for the time being, this is a good place for me to do it. Thank you, Lord, for the privilege of serving the messy people for whom you died.