A Few Thoughts on Christmas and Perfection

Our mail didn’t come yesterday. It was a neighborhood-wide problem. Apparently, sometime between 8pm and 9pm, the mail lady drove the mail truck through the local streets, but she delivered no packages and no mail. Letters awaiting pickup were left in mailboxes. Late last night, everyone expecting a package from Amazon via the post office received notice of delivery attempt and failure.

I’m not sure what happened. Maybe the mail lady stepped in a freezing puddle and was cold. Maybe she got sick. Maybe she had tickets to see the new Star Wars movie and didn’t want to be late. Maybe she decided to take revenge on our neighborhood because someone left their dog out or put their trash can in front of the mailbox or didn’t keep their piles of snow out of the way.

Based on numerous Facebook comments, there were a lot of unhappy people in my neighborhood yesterday evening and this morning.

There aren’t many days left until Christmas, so getting a package late could be kind of a big deal. I had a package that was supposed to be delivered. It’s a Christmas present for the kids, but it’s not THE Christmas present for the kids. If it arrives a day or two late, it’s not that big of a deal. And if it arrives several days late and misses Christmas, it’s still not the end of the world. I also had a letter to be picked up. But it’s not an important letter. I don’t really care if it arrives for New Years instead of for Christmas.

I understand how this could be a bigger problem for other people. Maybe they’re awaiting THE Christmas present for one of their kids. Maybe they’re planning to go out of town and really needed their package yesterday. Maybe they wanted a few days to complete the assembly of some item and really needed it Monday. Late mail could be much more serious for them than it was for me.

The incident led me to contemplate a few things. How often do I expect perfection from the post office, from the clerk at the grocery store, from the waitress at the restaurant, and from the person scheduling my child’s next dental exam?

Hundreds of days this year, I have received my mail as scheduled. And I’ve received dozens of packages from the post office during 2015 without any hiccups. So why is it that when someone messes up once, we’re ready to call their boss and complain, switch providers, write vindictive online reviews, or never use said company or service again? Why do we expect everyone else to be perfect?

I’m not perfect. I try really hard to make my novels polished and flawless. But even after I’ve read and reread and edited and edited my books some more, even after a professional editor, copyeditor, and two proofreaders have gone over them, my books aren’t perfect. I’ve seen typos in three of the four books I currently have out. I’m certain there’s at least one typo in the other book as well, I just haven’t read it since it went to press and people have been charitable enough not to point it out. I’m guessing there’s at least one typo in my book coming out in February too. Most of my books are about 105,000 words long. Let’s say there’s an average of 5 typos. That’s 99.995% accurate. But it’s not perfect.

When I think about my other job, being a mom, the results are even further from perfection.

So if I mess up as a mom nearly every single day, and have a few typos in my published novels, can’t I give the mail lady a break?

It’s a sad truth that the holiday season has a tendency to get us stressed out with overwhelming gift lists, long lines, deadlines, expectations, and too much sugar, too many parties, and too much to do.

But you know what? Amazon could go out of business, the post office could disappear, and in a true nightmare scenario, the world’s cocoa crop could fail. There could be no presents under the Christmas tree (and no chocolate in the stockings), but Christmas would go on. Because the most important part of Christmas already happened, over 2,000 years ago. The birth of a little baby in Bethlehem changed the world. And it changed me. And His death saved me, and it saved all the people in my neighborhood and in your neighborhood, and in neighborhoods all over the world. And it saved postal workers too.

I think that means Christmas is the perfect time to overlook the imperfections in others.

Merry Christmas, everyone.

I hope all your packages arrive before Christmas . . . and more importantly, I hope you have the opportunity to remember the first Christmas and how the birth of the Savior of the World can help you, even when you aren’t perfect. Because none of us is perfect. But He is. And that makes all the difference.

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