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Postage Algebra and Flannery O’Connor


So, I had upwards of 75 books to mail to the Launch Team, a group of readers across America – and even Ireland – who applied for the chance at early access to my new book. Peter and I hauled boxes and boxes into the post office, one of my least favorite places in the world, so I was feeling exceedingly professional and adult(ish).

This is where we met Nesbitt, our postal consultant for the day. And I do mean for the day, because that’s precisely how long our visit lasted.

Nesbitt: “How can I help you?”

Me: “Well, I have a bunch of packages to mail today, sir, and I’d love your help.”

His eyes grew wide with the boxes piled behind me. If only postal workers received commission, he may have been more delighted.

“What is in there?”

“Books. I’m an author, and I’m sending these out to a whole bunch of excited readers.”

“What kind of books?”

This is where people’s eyes tend to glaze over just a bit, especially if I answer this question the wrong way and use the word “Christian.” So I just said, “It’s nonfiction.”

“Ah, okay. Put one up here, and we will weigh it. Aha. Okay. Your package will cost $3.74.”

See, this is where I had thought we’d just stroll on up to the counter, weigh one package, and Nesbitt would then print out 75 stamps for the amount. But instead, this is whereupon we began the most challenging word problem, and sweet Nesbitt did the whole thing with a pen, scrap paper, and hand-scribed multiplication. Old fashioned “long math.”

“You could put 4 91-cent stamps on each one, plus a 10-cent. Or you could put 3 74-cent stamps and a 91-cent stamp and then two 25-cent stamps. Or you could put 14 25-cent stamps on it and then one 5-cent stamp on it.”

Peter said, “Wouldn’t it be easier to use your machine there to print off 75 stamps for $3.74?”

His eyes grew wider with disbelief. “No, sir. No, that will take all day.”

I see. Not like this speedy math situation, though.

Once we settled on an algebra equation that had me paying no more than 4 additional cents than necessary for each package, since there was apparently no way to get it exactly right, then Nesbitt needed to check his drawer to see if he had the stamps required for our postal algebra.

He laid out all of our options, and then he said, “Oh, but this one, there aren’t enough so–”

“Wait!” I nearly shouted and reached across the counter. “Whose face is that? Who’s on that stamp?”

“Um, I believe it says, Flannery? Flannery O’Connor.”

“I’ll take those.”

“But it isn’t enough.”

“That’s okay. I’ll take what you have. I need her.”

I don’t know what came over me.   But there was some connection with the fiction and essays of her American writing that made me desperate to put her face on my envelopes. I needed her like a muse to carry my books to their new homes, apparently. Because I was suddenly into literary superstition.

“Right,” said Nesbitt. “Okay.” I think he may have thought the word ‘weirdo’ in his head.

And so he gave us all he had of Flannery O’Connor, coupled with a lovely stamp concoction of Henry James, a butterfly, a clock, and a teapot.

We settled in for most of the afternoon to stamp it up. Peter nicknamed our stamps Henry Higgins, the Irish Lassie, Madame, Cogsworth, and Mrs. Potts. As in, “I’m running low over here. Give me two Cogsworths and an Irish Lassie.”

Nesbitt followed up with us before we left. “Excuse me, but I heard you talking, and are you believers, then?”

He lit up when we told him we are, as it turns out he is, too. He attends an Indo-Aryan-speaking church in the Denver area. He told us the Indian people of Denver are so hungry to hear their native language, and speaking their language brings them in the door. He said, “If we can just talk to them, they will come. And then we can tell them about Jesus.”

He said he loves our church too. He even has the app on his phone so he can listen online. He’d love to go where we go, but he needs to be with the people who need his language.

There we were, in our local post office, meeting a fellow believer who happens to be a missionary to our town. And I had been afraid to tell him I write Christian books. (Sometimes I’m not proud of my own filters.)

“And so what kind of books?” he said.

“It’s a book on Christian living, a book about being a confident woman, about embracing the confidence God offers.”

“I knew it,” he said, his eyes twinkling. “Your first book?”

“No, this is my third.”

“Ah,” he said. “God has made you a born author.”

May it be so, Nesbitt. God bless you and your post-office ministry, my new friend.

And thank you for the stamps.

Tricia Lott Williford

Comments are closed

  1. I’m thinking Nesbitt should have gotten a complimentary copy and upped the testosterone level for your group.

  2. i want that book!

  3. We never know who God will bring onto our path! So excited that your new book will be changing so many people’s lifes — I can’t wait to read it!

  4. I love your writings! As I read, I create the movie reel in my head…you are so descriptive, I feel like I am in line right behind you watching Nesbitt painstakingly do the math……I never leave your pages without either a smile, a tear, a conviction, or a new thought….or all four at the same time!

  5. I just love you!

  6. Oh, I can ALWAYS just visualize you & LOVED this!!! Ahhhhhh, one more example of how God is using you!! Thank you for sharing & love you both!

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