The Typewriter Mailbox: Small Ways to Bring Joy to a Neighborhood

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“Not all who wander are lost, some are just out looking for yard sales.”

That’s the message on the laminated sheet I slid behind the paper bail of the vintage typewriter mounted to the top of my mailbox. It’s Monday morning, the day the message gets changed. This one replaced last week’s quote by John Lennon: “Being honest might not get you a lot of friends, but it will always get you the right ones.”

The house that my husband and I moved into in May came with instructions. “You need to change the mailbox message every week, or people will get upset.” The homeowner, our good friend Tina, handed us a stack of laminated quotes, musings, and inspirations that were to be loaded into the typewriter mailbox each week. Tina was gracious enough to offer up her home as a rental while we navigate the real estate market looking for our own “forever home.” She is away working in Alaska for a few years, so it was a win-win situation, especially after we promised her we’d change the mailbox message weekly.

The typewriter mailbox was Tina’s creative dream that became a reality when she met Bob, a retired welder down the street who, conveniently enough, specializes in custom mailboxes. He might have raised an eyebrow when she initially shared her idea, but the end result is a beautiful work of art.

During the first few weeks in the neighborhood this spring, the mailbox was a great conduit for meeting people. Sometimes I would go out in the front yard and pretend to be digging up dandelions, waiting for someone to walk by and stop and read the message. This is how I met the woman who has a dog that looks just like Lassie, the pre-teen brothers on skateboards, the couple that pushes a shopping cart filled with their earthly possessions, and the runner who always jogs in place in front of the mailbox while he reads the message.

I would watch people walk, drive, and bike by, slowing down and turning their heads to read the message, and occasionally I would see someone take a picture with their phone. One day, my friend Willow, who lives in Idaho, sent me a screen shot of something that came across her Instagram feed: A photo of my mailbox here in Montana. “Just in case no one told you today: Good morning! You’re doing great! I believe in you! Nice butt!” Apparently the cheeky message had made someone’s day.

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