Keeping the post

There’s no denying that the fabric of our lives here on the prairie has shifted through the years, just since mid-century. The number of people living on farms has decreased drastically, while farm size has increased. Small town population is declining, as our many of our Main Street businesses. No longer is there a school in every town. It’s not unusual as enrollment lags for two consolidated districts to form a new consolidation and then another new district. School bus routes are longer, yet school buses are emptier. All too often our church congregations are dwindling.

And now the powers that be want to adjust our postal service. Although it is something that is pretty much inevitable given the change in demographics in our area and rising costs, making adjustments in our postal service is still an unpopular undertaking. As the process moves forward, it seems to that we are resigned to what is happening.

According to a Web site that I consulted, there are some 27,000 post offices in our country, many in rural areas. That’s one distribution point for every 131 square miles in the U.S., which this report made a point of stating didn’t seem excessive. Besides, we all know that a post office in a little town is more than just a post office. It functions as a community center, a place to see folks from around town while picking up your daily mail, sending a package, or maybe buying a book of stamps.

A rural post office also acts as the face of the federal government and serves as a focal point for that community’s identity. When a post office in a little town closes, that town is likely to wither and die.

A brief outing to pick up your mail at the post office is an easy way to break up a day for someone who lives alone. Or even if you don’t live alone, as I recall from the years we lived in town with young children. Plop them in the stroller, roll down the sidewalk studying what you see along the way, greet the postmaster and others you may know when you get to the post office, open your box and get your mail. And then reverse the trip.

Initially, the announcement that the postal service would close thousands of post offices around the country was not happily received by the general public. Since then, the U.S.P.S. has reconsidered and plans instead to reduce the number of hours post offices are open in many rural communities, including in Hamilton county. It seems like a fair and reasonable alternative to simply closing the doors. And, although we don’t like it, we are adjusting to the idea.

As the president of the National League of Postmasters put it, “The small rural town has as much right to a constitutionally authorized post office as does urban America.”