My Mailbox, Lions and Freedom
In my neighborhood there is a community mailbox area. A place, down by a lake, where everyone in the neighborhood must go to get their mail. No mailboxes at each house. Just one central location for everyone. Thus, it’s a pretty good bet that you will encounter a neighbor or two, whenever you go to get your mail.
On one particular day I stopped down, in the late afternoon, to get my mail. There was a car already parked and a woman who was walking toward her mailbox to do the exact same thing that I was about to do. As I got out of my car she was walking back, clasping a treasure trove of mailers, flyers, credit card offers and probably one or two advertisements from realtors trying to get her to sell her house, tucked under her arm. You know, the typical mailbox fodder that is bound for the recycling bin.
As we walked toward each other our eyes met and she said, “Hot enough for you?” Not an uncommon thing to say between Floridian neighbors in July. To which I gave my stat answer. “Yes, it is. But I will take it so that I never have to shovel snow again.” To which the standard response is usually something like her response, “You’re right about that.” She got into her car and I proceeded to get my mail. The exchange took all of ten seconds and then it was over.
Yet, on this day it caused me to think about lions. When lions go to the watering hole or when they encounter other lions on the savannah, do they talk about the weather or politics or other lions? Do they make small talk, neighborly gestures of inclusion and acceptance? Do lions wish that they didn’t live in such a hot climate? Or do lions just live where they live, when they live and how they live? With no regard to what other lions are doing or what they might be missing out on, because they live where they live?
This then led me to think about the concept of freedom and what that word means to me. As opposed to what that word means to a lion. To me, freedom means that I am able to act, speak and think as I want, without hinderance or restraint. If I want to complain about the weather, I can. If I want to let the mail pile up in my mailbox, I can. Freedom means that I can make choices about what I will do, where I will live and who I will live with.
I don’t think that freedom means these same things to a lion. I don’t think that lions sit around and contemplate what life is like somewhere else. Thus, I don’t believe that lions ever have a “Hot enough for you?” conversation. Not that I’m knocking lions. I just don’t believe that lions share our understanding of freedom, when it comes to life and our experience of life.
This runaway train of thought continued as I drove home. I was looking around my neighborhood and noticing the beauty of where I live. Manicured lawns, big old trees, a bunny in that yard, a squirrel in that other yard, a hawk perched at the top of a pine tree and an Osprey soaring with a fish in its talons.
As I witnessed all of this I was reminded of why this Pennsylvania boy fell in love with Florida, some thirty-six years ago. My mind went back to when I first visited my parents, after they retired and moved to Florida. I remembered how new it all felt. How wild and exotic it all seemed. I knew immediately that I wanted to live here. A dream that would take fourteen years to become my reality.
As I got out of my car, it didn’t seem to be so hot. The humidity wasn’t as oppressive. The sun shined brighter. The orange color of the Bird of Paradise flowers in my front yard were more vivid and the sight of lizards scampering away as I walked, all made me smile that much bigger.
One ten second conversation with a neighbor at the mailbox had altered my perspective. It had helped me to see, again, the beauty of the world around me. The world into which I had once dreamed of living. The world that I realized that I had, sadly, started taking for granted. In that moment, my eyes, my mind, my perspective was transformed back to the eyes, the mind and the perspective of a nineteen-year old boy. I was falling in love with Florida all over again. That’s freedom to me!