When we arrived at our new apartment in January we were very excited. A home for our new, very small family. We had our own lounge room, kitchen, bedroom, balcony, and mailbox. When we opened our mailbox for the first time it was full of advertisements from local businesses. The apartment block we’re renting in is newly built, we were the first tenants, so the mail we had was all about welcoming us to the neighbourhood. It was very kind of them, but I tend to hate junk mail. I hate it because I don’t like people wasting paper trying to sell me things I don’t want. I have always wanted to get a “No Junk Mail” sign because I know I’m just going to recycle it, so why not save us both time and them the money, and the junk mail can move on to greener pastures.
So, in our Newly-wedded bliss, Em and I headed off to the newsagent to buy a sign for our mailbox. It was very exciting. Our first mailbox sign. We were truly married now. In the newsagent, we picked the sign that best suited the French-family style guide for mailboxes, and took it to the counter. The friendly lady at the newsagent wished us all the best in our new life, free from unsolicited printed advertising material.
We stuck the sign on our mailbox, and thought everything was over. Little did we know our adventure with junk mail had only just began.
At first we weren’t getting any junk mail. Then one or two pieces. Then a few more pieces, multiple times. To begin with I was a bit angry. I thought “Can’t that person read?” I thought about delivering the catalogues back to the businesses. Or complaining to Australia Post. But I’m lazy so I just got a bit angry. Not very angry, but angry enough that I sometimes contemplated how to deal out junk mail justice not only within 5 minutes of checking the mail but at other times throughout my daily routine too.
But then in this last week it became clear to us that the junk mail we’re getting is no accident. People are deliberately putting their junk mail in our letter box. We are the only people in the apartment block with a sign so our mailbox is the place where a significant minority of residents have decided to post their unwanted mail. We know this because there is no other reason why we would receive the Domino’s vouchers (which we actually like) four times, or the unaddressed letter from our local member seven times over the space of a week. But what confirmed it was the MX magazine which is handed out at train stations that had been on the floor of our mail room for a few days which was delivered to our mailbox this past Sunday!
Now that I realise what’s going on, it’s kinda funny. Somehow a group of residents has decided that the people who need junk mail most are the people who have the No Junk Mail sign. It’s like deliberately walking on grass which has a “Do not walk on the grass” sign. Those signs seem kind of petty, so why not point out the pettiness and walk on the grass. I get it. We probably do seem a little petty being the only ones snobbish enough to refuse the free literature of the masses. Perhaps we do deserve everyone’s unwanted advertisements for local plumbers and real estate agents. But what is amazing is that this isn’t just one person, this is a group of people who live in different apartments. How did they organise this? Was there a secret meeting where they decided to troll the couple in 303 for daring to refuse junk mail? Did one person get the idea and then pass it on to whoever they see in the lift? Was there a directive from Strata that we should receive everyone’s junk mail? Is it just a collective uprising, no leader, no plan, just an obvious response to an obvious problem? I have no idea, but it’s a tiny bit fascinating.
The other thing I’m thinking about is how to respond. It feels like extremely low-level persecution, but it’s not for our faith, so I don’t think we can claim any blessedness for it. I am wondering what the Christ-like response is. I suspect turning the other cheek is an appropriate verse to apply here, or going the extra mile. But how do we do that? I thought perhaps we could change our sign to “Please Give Us Your Junk Mail”, but that might seem snarky. Perhaps we could write a letter to everyone and ask them all to give us their mail, but that too might just seem passive aggressive. All I have concluded is that I need to gladly receive my neighbours’ junk mail, and joyfully recycle it. The community have decided to saddle us with their real world spam, we have the unique opportunity to carry their burdens all the way to the recycling room 5-meters away. It’s probably not the grandest embodiment of Christ’s sacrificial love, but it’s all we’ve got to work with right now, so I guess we’ll give it a shot.
Photo by Michael Coghlan