November 17, 2010: What Would John Woolman Do?

The bells of mindfulness are calling out to us,

trying to wake us up, reminding us to look deeply

at our impact on the planet.

Thich Nhat Hanh

When, in 1770, John Woolman connected “retailed rum, sugar, and molasses [to be] the fruits of the labour of slaves,” he practiced the sort of mindfulness Thich Nhat Hanh espouses.

But sometimes that gets very complicated.

Every morning, rain or shine, hail storm or snow storm, The Boston Globe is delivered right to my door. Literally. Andrey Goncalves, the delivery guy, throws my paper from his car onto my front porch; most mornings, his aim is so precise the paper lands right onto my doormat.

Can you spot the mindful/environmental/spiritual dilemma? Of course you can! It’s that damned car.

“Should I continue to pay NYT BostonGlobe  $46.56 every month?” I began to wonder. “Environmentally, maybe it would be better if I walked to a store every morning where stacks of Globes had been delivered.”

Ah, but just as I was contemplated this, what should arrive with my morning paper but a cheesy Thanksgiving card from Andrey Goncalves!

So what, you might say. It came with an addressed envelope, you might point out. That card was obviously your Paper Delivery Guy’s underhanded way to get a tip.

Maybe so.

But Something about that card “spoke to my condition,” as JW would put it. I remembered Andrey’s faithfulness—even in terrible weather. And his excellent arm. I remembered how long he’s been my Delivery Guy. Which just might be saying something about how much he—and his family?—need this cruddy job? I regarded his name, considered what it might be like for anyone named “Goncalves” to survive in this economy, this anti-immigrant environment. And, cheesy as it was, there was Something heartfelt about that card which, indeed, asked me to take a moment to reflect upon the bounty that informs my cushy life.

What would JW do? Well, truth be told, I have no idea.

But TNH has this to say: “To bring about real change in our global ecological situation our efforts must be collective and harmonious, based on love and respect for ourselves and each other, our ancestors, and future generations.”

So here’s what I’m planning to do: Keep on shelling out almost fifty bucks every month for my newspaper. Keep on giving Andrey generous tips. And, on a rainy or snowy or miserable morning, when I hear that familiar thunk at my front door, to sleepily offer a prayer of thanksgiving to Andrey and all the millions of unseen, unknown men and women whose fruits of labor I partake every single, mindless day.

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6 Comments

  1. Sweet! Did I ever tell you I had a newspaper for 3 years? It was the same time span when we mowed 9 lawns a week, and cleaned a car wash, and…
    Glad you tip.

  2. I’m delighted with your conclusion. You had me worried at first. You had much to consider but you arrived at a good place. And if you didn’t tip or tipped very little, Audrey would still be doing what he needs to do to survive. And if you do tip and tip a little more, he may have a bit more in his pocket this week.

  3. Well Patricia,
    There’s also the trees killed for the paper and the chemicals in the ink, etc… but computers actually create a lot more toxic stuff when they’re manufactured…

    And electronically there’s no good way that people are willing to pay for content, which makes it hard for us writers…
    How to live a faithful life? For me, it’s figuring out the easiest, least ambiguous thing that I know I should do and I’m not doing, rather than worrying about all the others. And now I know what it is.

  4. My faithful paper thrower with the excellent aim is Luciano Da Silva. Also a cheesy T’giving card. I’ll mail him a Christmas card. We used to leave the tip on the door, but then I figured that really slows him down. And wastes some more gas as well. Most of my Globe goes into the recycle on the spot, but at least it is silent – I don’t listen to news on the radio anymore.
    Glad I got pointed to your blog, now I’ll bookmark it.

  5. your writing is so spry and witty, you write as you speak, you speak as you are. most of your writing is akin to messages in meeting for worship. i do appreciate them and you.

    about newspapers, tho i can appreciate your views, long ago i swore off most corporate controlled media, for better or for worse. a release: now i have more time to pursue democracy now, mother jones, sun magazine, yes magazine, truth out, common dreams, and blogs like yours. unfortunately there is no one to tip in person.

    –skip (in gaza, but not that far away)

  6. Well Patricia, There’s also the trees killed for the paper and the chemicals in the ink, etc… but computers actually create a lot more toxic stuff when they’re manufactured… And electronically there’s no good way that people are willing to pay for content, which makes it hard for us writers… How to live a faithful life? For me, it’s figuring out the easiest, least ambiguous thing that I know I should do and I’m not doing, rather than worrying about all the others. And now I know what it is.

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