A love letter to the working class
Illustration from 'Sincerely, Emerson.' | Jaclyn Sinquett / via HarperKids

This article won the 2022 Best Feature Story – National/International – 1st Place, from the Labor Media Awards by the International Labor Communications Association.

On a warm sunny day last summer, whilst most of my patrons were hunkered down by the pandemic, a magical moment happened. I had just finished a loop on one of my favorite streets when two starry-eyed eight-year-olds approached me. “Mailman John, do you have a minute? We have a surprise for you.” Of course, I had time for a surprise. I stopped in my tracks. The young ladies gathered their composure, took a deep breath, and then began singing and dancing on the sidewalk in front of me.

“Mailman John, we thank you. We thank you for bringing our mail!” They repeated the verse several times as they swirled around me in delicate circles, then stopped and bowed graciously. I applauded, and I thanked them for thinking about me. A simple act of kindness, and I was on Cloud Nine as I completed my appointed rounds that day.

A simple act of kindness. That is what I needed that day as I struggled to work through that summer of 2020 with all its unexpected awfulness. And the fact that I received that jolt of unbridled thankfulness for the work I was doing in the neighborhood that came from two children was absolutely heart-crinkling. But Molly and Lulu are not the only two who showed their appreciation for their mailman last year. There is another incredibly special young lady who lives in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Her name is Emerson, and her mailman’s name is Doug.

Emerson has always loved to write letters. She began writing letters to her pen pals in second grade, including her grandparents. She not only writes letters daily; she also intricately decorates the envelopes and spends the time picking out just the right stamp for each correspondence. She shares her poetry and favorite jokes in her hand-written letters. She is twelve years old now.

While others of her age are engaged in texting and emailing to keep in touch with family and friends, Emerson enjoys the deeper level of communication and connectivity that comes with the art of transcribing her thoughts with pen and paper. She explains:

“The fact that you know the person who wrote you a letter sat down and took some time to write you means so much. In addition, it comes in your mailbox and surprises you. When you receive a text or an email all you get is a little blue dot that pops up on your phone or computer.”

Illustration from ‘Sincerely, Emerson’ depicting Mailman Doug. | Jaclyn Sinquett / via HarperKids

One day, Emerson proved her point in a way that nobody, even herself, could anticipate. She decided to write a note of thanks to her mailman. Inside one of her indelibly illustrated envelopes was this letter to Mailman Doug:

“I’m Emerson. You may know me as the person that lives here that writes a lot of letters & decorates the envelopes. Well, I wanted to say THANK YOU for taking my letters and delivering them. You are VERY IMPORTANT to me. I make people happy with my letters, but you do too. YOU MAKE IT POSSIBLE!”

Doug was so impressed with this simple act of kindness that he showed it to his supervisor, Sarah. Sarah was so impressed she sent it to her superiors in the district management office. They were so impressed they shared it on the Postal network website. Nationwide, this simple act of gratitude from an eleven-year-old to her letter carrier spread like wildfire.

Within a week, Doug delivered two large boxes of letters from Postal workers all over the nation and even the Postmaster General. Many wanted to become new pen pals with Emerson. She recalls it was “mind-blowing!”

The media caught wind of this story, and Emerson has since been featured on ABC News, CNN, Good Morning America, and even the Kelly Clarkson show. Her story has appeared in articles by Forbes, Reader’s Digest, and countless newspapers. Folks from across the nation and around the world began writing her.

Through all of this, she has even become pen pals with her favorite singer, Taylor Swift. And, most recently, Harper Collins has published a children’s book called Sincerely, Emerson based on her amazing story. Emerson even wrote the book! One simple act of kindness has snowballed into an avalanche of goodwill for thousands across the globe.

Eleven-year-old author Emerson Weber with her book, ‘Sincerely, Emerson.’ | via HarperKids

In an ABC interview, Emerson shares this observation: “The story is not about me. It’s about the little acts of kindness that people who do stuff for us in the Postal Service and how they make the world go around. We really wanted to have that message come across.”

And while she has a special place in her heart for her Mailman Doug, in her book, she acknowledges the daily contributions of all the workers in her neighborhood and beyond. The book ends with this simple but powerful statement about the working class through the lens of this very special eleven-year-old:

“And it wasn’t just the mail carriers. It was the bus drivers. The grocery store clerks. The trash collectors and the farmers. There was love in their work too. Every day, they got up and went to work. Every day, they did their best. Every bus ride, every tomato, every bag of trash, every bag of groceries. They were possible because someone cared. Each act was an act of love…wrapping the world together in a network…like the biggest hug ever.”

Molly and Lulu—I hope you sing and dance for me again one time soon. And Emerson, maybe one day I will be blessed to get one of your wonderful letters. A simple act of kindness. A mailman’s heart that crinkles with pure joy. A perfect combination. Mailman Doug, I am sure you agree that we have the best job around.

P.S. Sincerely, Emerson, published by Harper Collins and written by Emerson Weber, is available at all fine book retailers. I suggest you support your local bookstore and order a copy today. Special thanks to the book’s illustrator, Jaclyn Sinquett, for sharing her insight on this project. And very special thanks to Mailman Doug, whom I had the pleasure of speaking with recently. Happy near Retirement, my Brother!


John Dick
John Dick

Award winning writer John "Cementhead" Dick is a retired letter carrier and proud member of the National Association of Letter Carriers, Branch 3126, Royal Oak, Mich.