Many years ago, when our kids were elementary school aged, we came home from a Friday night high school basketball game, probably January or February, snow on the ground, it’s dark, maybe nine-thirty at night, and as we were attempting to pull in to the driveway, we saw a woman wearing a dark coat opening our mailbox and she had some kind of a light or flashlight in her other hand. I got out of the car and said,

“What are you doing in our mailbox?”

”You don’t have the approved copper mailbox, required by the Home Owners Association.”

“Are you aware that it is a federal offense to tamper with someone’s mailbox? And are you aware that that the place the HOA requires we purchase the copper mailboxes, is out of them, we are on their list and will be notified when they are in. We need to get our mail in the meantime, so we have one in place until that time. Please leave my mailbox alone and leave my property at this time. If I see you again touching my mailbox, I will call the police.”

gray metal mail box
Photo by Brian Patrick Tagalog / Unsplash

Our mailbox post (and box) had been hit by someone on an icy night, who failed to stop or leave us a note. I had been on it, but these things sometimes are not immediately resolved. The post had been easy to replace, they were in stock and a break in the cold weather allowed for it to be installed, but the copper box, at the time, the only company we could get them from all those years ago was out. We purchased one from Home Depot in the meantime. If you live in a neighborhood with a home owner’s association (HOA), you know that it can be a good thing. There is a list of bylaws/rules that are intended to keep everyone’s homesite looking good and if everyone follows the rules, everyone should benefit with keeping up property values and keeping the neighborhood looking good. Rules range from no RVs being able to park in homesite driveway, to landscaping requirements like mulch being required in landscape beds rather than rocks or dirt to decor like any drapes or window covering must be white or lined in white. When a homeowner purchases a home in a community or neighborhood with an HOA, they are presented with a copy and usually sign a document that they will be comply with all rules.

Those who enforce the rules/bylaws are usually elected to a HOA board. These residents give their time to serve, attend meetings and enforce rules. Most the individuals who serve on these boards fall into a few different categories. There are the people who like to be involved, they feel that if they live in the neighborhood they should do their part and contribute with their time. Some have a background or interest in landscaping and they enjoy being part of the community to keep it up to par. These people gladly give their time for the greater cause and their intentions are truly good so that the property values keep up and they take pride in their role to help out. However, there are a small number of those individuals who have less desirable intentions, they either like to be neighborhood nosy bodies, they are on a little power trip, taking pride in shoving their weight around or they gain something for themselves by being on the board. I would tend to believe that most of the people willing to give of their time in this service have good intentions and having lived or owned houses in four communities, that has been my experience.

Recently, those ‘bad apples’ however, have made some news, giving the good apples, a bad rap. On a recently neighborhood community platform, a resident described and reposted a very scathing letter from a board member threatening fines if dues had not been paid. Interestingly, the resident HAD paid dues, had made a copy of the check and had sent it to the neighborhood treasurer. Someone I know recently had their home painted and as the painters were nearing completion of the job, some of the workers on the job were sealing up some touch up paint for the homeowner. They asked the homeowner if they wanted their mailbox post painted with a coordinating paint color since three colors had been used in the job. the homeowner had not planned on painting the mailbox, hadn’t thought of it, so in a quick, on the spot decision, decided on a coordinating color. Not long after the paint job had been completed, a resident complained about the mailbox color. A letter was sent and the resident looked through their rules handed to them at the closing of their home. From what the couple read, the were no rules broken. In fact, they drove around the neighborhood and found a few other mailboxes in the ‘hood’ in a very similar color. They called to address the issue with the individual who sent the letter. They were told that a complaint had been lodged, the board voted as to whether the color could remain, and there were more board members who voted against the paint color than for it to be able to remain in the coordinating color. After a brief discussion between the couple, they decided that it really didn’t matter, it was an off the cuff, impromptu decision made and even though it was tasteful, they were completely in their right of having it remain that color, to waste their time going before a board to ‘plead’ their case was worthless to them. They got a can of the touch up paint left by the painters and painted it.

There are times in life, when ‘painting the mailbox (post) white” is the best thing to do. You pick your battles and sometimes when you are justified in your complaint, or point, to argue with a fool, or tangling with a power hungry miserable person or group of people is a waste of your breath and time. However, when your future, safety, wellbeing or that of your spouse, children, those in your circle of trust, are risked, well, that is quite another matter. To get all fired up for a piddly cause pales in comparison to an issue of major importance in the big picture. A good friend of mine, chief friend, quotes the person who penned the saying something like, “You need to ask yourself, will this matter 10 minutes from now, 10 months from now, or 10 years from now?“ If you answer “no“ to these three question, let it go. Others have their own ways of deciphering whether it’s worth it to address an issue. Yes, you do have to stand up for yourself, and those around you but how much ‘brain damage’ is something worth? If money is involved, of course, you need to make sure you don’t get taken advantage of.

Sadly, thirty or forty years ago, or longer, many of the problems we see today were easily taken care of with a knock on the door a quick respectful conversation a handshake and neighbors, friends, family members remained friends as the relationship was more important than the disagreement or problem. It’s a societal problem today often. It seemed as if years ago, people were concerned about how their actions affected others and good behavior was held in high regard. We often read or see videos of disrespectful or poor behavior. With a camera, security camera or phone almost everywhere to record, one might anticipate that people would mind their ps and qs. It is not unexpected to see road rage, customers treat individual in the service industry, like food servers or business owners disrespectfully. We see it in every aspect of society from the medical field, finances, elected officials and government workers, to law enforcement to education In terms of investors shirking their responsibilities to their investors, to some educators keeping sensitive information hidden from parents about their own children, to even in families some members throwing part of their clan under the bus (just look at how the Kardashians treated Bruce, making him sleep in the garage on a mattress).

What’s the solution to these issues? Like so much in life, it’s about respect; respect for those in front of us, to the sides of us and behind us. Many times by showing respect for those we interact with or come across, will yield a good outcome. It also requires just not allowing the ‘grinches’ in life to steal your joy, no matter how large or small. Think of the lines in The Grinch Who Stole Christmas

“Every Who down in Whoville, The Tall and The Small, was singing without any presents at all.” He had been wrong he had thought that…

“Their mouths will hang open a minute or two, then the Whos down in Whoville, will all cry boo-hoo.”

Not everyone in life has a happy heart and good intentions. Some people don’t even realize how their negative actions or attitude affects others. Regardless, don’t allow anyone steel your joy. Sometimes, you just need to ‘paint the mailbox white’ and move on…Life’s too short and there are too many Great Days to be had ❤️

Mary Yana Burau, author of It’s a Great Day To…Gather Around a Table