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Burning Mail Is Never a Good Thing



It’s been years since I read the news story about a U.S. Postal Service worker in Louisiana who, after getting caught, pleaded guilty to destroying mail — a federal crime. Turns out that for at least 18 months, instead of delivering the mail to his postal customers, this guy took it home and burned it. He estimated he burned 20 tubs of mail. The felon was sentenced to five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine.

You’re shaking your head, right? Actually, it makes me kinda go weak in the knees. It’s not so much the 18 months of federal employee salary and full benefits he took while being a lazy, good-for-nothing postal worker that gets to me. It’s not even all the bills he burned that were headed to upstanding customers who undoubtedly had to pay late fees at the further cost of their credit score plummeting, nor is it the untold hassles this had to have caused so many people due to the ripple effect.

What got to me was recalling how I’d done the same thing. I didn’t work for the USPS, but I was the recipient of mail that I didn’t like. I didn’t want my husband to see the credit card statements for accounts he didn’t know about or the purchases I’d been making all month without his knowledge. I wanted to preserve my reputation with him and not have to make explanations or cry and promise never to do it again, as I’d already done so many times before.

In desperation, I told myself (and believed) no one could hold me responsible for mail they couldn’t prove I’d received. (Made sense to me then. Not so much now.)

So, over and again I did the deed. Secretly, safely. And then feigned having never received it.

My deeds were not without consequence. Trust me on that. I had to come to the end of my rope. That deep, dark place where I truly believed I had no way out and all hope was lost. Looking into the depths of that place in my heart was indescribably painful but absolutely necessary. When I came to the end of myself, there I found hope.

I did come clean with my husband. I did go back and make things right with every creditor, and that was not easy. It took a full 13 years to get back to zero with our creditors and to a place of trust with my husband.

I didn’t ask for a single concession or monetary forgiveness. I turned my will and my life over to God, asking only for the strength and endurance it would require to repay more than $100,000 (closer $300,000 in 2024 dollars) while at the same time continuing to live, raise a family and become a productive citizen in our community. He did, and I did and have gone on to use that period of my life and lessons learned to help others. I am eternally grateful.

Burning the mail is never the right thing to do. Mark Wayne Thompson was sentenced in April 2018. By my count, he has now served his time. As for burning mail, I hope he has learned his lesson well and in so doing has found the hope he needs to turn his life around.

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