“Student and Teacher,” Mailman in Holly Spreads Joy and Wisdom All Year
(Mark H. Stowers, March 4, 2022)
Holly, MI- John Hansen has been delivering mail for 26 years in New York, Florida and Michigan but the joy-filled mail carrier always adds his own touch to the task. This past Christmas, he was a bit of a social media sensation in the Holly area but the humble and happy mailman knows the holiday message is not just for one month only.
“Christmas should live in our heart all year, every day. I really do try to live that way but I am human and do lose my temper on occasion,” Hansen said. “I do love people and it’s simply the Golden Rule. They try to come up with all these complicated formulas but it’s just treat people the way you want to be treated. And wow, what happens when you do that?”
And he does that each day on and off is mail carrier route.
“I enjoy meeting people I don’t know for the very first time,” Hansen said. “So often, nobody is ever looking anybody in the eye. Gosh, if you just look them in the eye and say, ‘how are you?’ and realize that listening is not just waiting for your turn to talk.”
During Christmas time each year, a mailbox just for Santa at Battle Alley Coffee in Holly, fills up and John duly does his job to get those letters to St. Nick. But throughout the year, he knows Christmas cheer is just as important.
“We (Santa and John) have an excellent relationship,” he said. “Even at my age I make sure everyone I come in contact with still believes in Santa. We can’t ever give up that hope. But our other faith is important. That’s what the whole season is about. I do my best to spread Christmas cheer all year round. Christmas lives in my heart.”
The Davison native and resident began his US Post Office career as Christmas help while living in Florida. And he’s got a plan to write a book about his mail career.
“Hopefully, it will be motivational and inspirational,” he said. “I’m blessed in many ways that I have such great customers.”
Though he doesn’t always get to see the children that are on his mail walking route due to them being in school, he does take the time to visit when they are home.
“I do my best to make sure I always have time for young people and hopefully I’ll have some words of encouragement or wisdom for them,” he said.
He gives credit to his upbringing and his faith for his joyful spirit.
“Growing up in Davison, there were always people who took time for me when I was young” he said. “My faith is important to me as well and we see that in the people we meet. The blessings are there. It’s an opportunity every day to look someone in the eye and make their day feel a little bit better for them. We never know what their story is or what they are going through. Gosh, if we can offer them some encouragement. I just try to live that way.”
With his friendly demeanor, spirit and looking folks in the eye, xx is always on the lookout for an opportunity to bless and to be blessed by those who come across his path.
“I’ve been very blessed with people who have touched my life. There’s an old saying, ‘when a student is ready, a teacher appears.’ I hope that I am both. I’m a student during the day but I hope to be a teacher.”
The “Christmas Elf” mail carrier works to make a difference each day that he’s here.
“It’s great when we do something for someone and they don’t even know we did it for them. That’s the true spirit of giving. If we do something for someone who knows us or expects something, have we really done something? But when we do it for somebody we don’t know and we don’t tell them that we did it. That may be worth a brownie point or two. We’ll have to wait till the next world to find out.”
Hansen continues to bless those on his route daily.
“A long, strange trip it’s been,” he said of his US Post Office journey. “If I had a Christmas wish, it would be that some people would put down their phone or tablet and look a stranger in the eye and just say, ‘how are you doing today?’ and respond with ‘Good, I’m glad to hear that.’”
Hansen’s favorite Christmas carol helps sum up his beliefs.
“The Christmas Guest by Grandpa Jones. It’s a story actually. I’ve loved it since I was a kid. I just shared this at Battle Alley Coffee and we all had a tear in our eye,” he said.
It happened one day near December’s end
Two neighbors called on an old friend
And they found his shop so meager and lean
Made gay with thousand bows of green
And Conrad was sitting with face a-shine
When he suddenly stopped as he stitched a twine
And he said “Old friends, at dawn today
When the cock was crowing the night away
The Lord appeared in a dream to me
And said, “I’m coming your guest to be.”
So, I’ve been busy with feet astir
Strewing my shop with branches of fern
The table is spread and the kettle is shined
And over the rafters the holly is twined
Now I’ll wait for my Lord to appear
And listen closely so I will hear
His step as He nears my humble place
And I’ll open the door and look on His face
So, his friends went home and left Conrad alone
For this was the happiest day he had known
For long since, his family had passed away
And Conrad had spent many a sad Christmas Day
But he knew with the Lord as his Christmas Guest
This Christmas would be the dearest and best
So, he listened with only joy in his heart
And with every sound he would rise with a start
And look for the Lord to be at his door
Like the vision he had had a few hours before
So, he ran to the window after hearing a sound
But all he could see on the snow covered ground
Was a shabby beggar whose shoes were torn
And all of his clothes were ragged and worn
But Conrad was touched and he went to the door
And he said, “You know, your feet must be frozen and sore
I have some shoes in my shop for you
And a coat that will keep you warmer too.”
So, with grateful heart the man went away
But Conrad noticed the time of day
And wondered what made the Lord so late
And how much longer he’d have to wait
When he heard a knock, he ran to the door
But it was only a stranger once more
A bent old lady with a shawl of black
With a bundle of kindling piled on her back
She asked for only a place to rest
But that was reserved for Conrad’s Great Guest
But her voice seemed to plead “Don’t send me away
Let me rest for a while on Christmas Day”
So, Conrad brewed her a steaming cup
And told her to sit at the table and sup
But after she left, he was filled with dismay
For he saw that the hours were slipping away
And the Lord hadn’t come as he said he would
Then Conrad felt sure he had misunderstood
When out of the stillness he heard a cry
‘Please help me and tell me where am I?”
So again, he opened his friendly door
And stood disappointed as twice before
It was only a child who’d wandered away
And was lost from her family on Christmas Day
Again, Conrad’s heart was heavy and sad
But he knew he should make the little girl glad
So, he called her in and he wiped her tears
And quieted all her childish fears
Then he led her back to her home once more
But as he entered his own darkened door
He knew the Lord was not coming today
For the hours of Christmas had passed away
So, he went to his room and knelt down to pray
And he said “Dear Lord, why did you delay?
What kept you from coming to call on me?
For I wanted so much your face to see.’
When soft in the silence a voice he heard
“Lift up your head for I kept my word
Three times my shadow crossed your floor
And three times I came to your lonely door
I was the beggar with bruised, cold feet
And I was the woman you gave something to eat
I was the child on the homeless street
Three times I knocked, and three times I came in
And each time I found the warmth of a friend
Of all the gifts, love is the best
And I was honored to be your Christmas Guest.