I went to the post office on a mission today. I was going to finally mail off my portion of a collaborative bookbinding project. The sheets of paper had been done for over a week, sitting idly in the corner of my room and becoming more and more curved by their own weight. After promising to send them for a few days I decided this was it. I wouldn't put it off any longer. I would drive myself straight over to the post office, select some form of packaging and off it would go.

And I did. I looked again at the design I had carefully placed upon the pages, feeling a little better about it upon this last review than I had previously, and I hopped in the car ready to go.

There was a time when I noticed everything going on around me. I heard the strain in the voices of my friends when they were upset about something. I saw the shadowed mass on the side of the road that turned out not to be trash but rather a turtle moving slowly into traffic. I used to focus my energy outwards. I'm not sure when that changed.

Today I walked into the post office and placed my paper on the counter carefully. I was scanning the walls for packaging choices while smoothing out the slight curve of the paper with my hands. I heard the greeting and knew instantly it was Tammy, my friend and the local postman. I looked at her without seeing. Heard her greeting without truly hearing her voice.

I told her I needed to mail something and showed her the size of my paper. She handed me an envelope and told me to let her know when I was ready, then disappeared into the back. I was already focused on writing the address on the package when I heard it,

"Don't worry about her. She's just a mean woman. She woke up on the wrong side of the bed today or something. Don't let her bring you down. Some people are just nasty."

I stopped what I was doing and looked up. The other postman was consoling my friend. I followed the direction of the woman's gaze and through an opening in the dividing wall I saw Tammy. Sitting in the dark, seemingly hidden behind packages and letters with her hands on her face. She was sobbing.

I realized instantly that some patron had said something snarky to her, insulted her, belittled her - something undeserving of a person like Tammy. Someone who has the ability to befriend just about everyone she meets; who can create a usable work of art in clay in a matter of seconds; who offers her home and her own time to anyone needing of either, does not deserve being reduced to hiding her tears in the dark corners of rooms.

When she emerged to help me moments later I saw what I had missed the first time. The heaviness of her voice speaking of held back sobs. The paleness of her face coupled with swollen pink eyes that told of more than a little crying.

Her frown. I hadn't noticed her frown before either. I wanted to reach out and hug her. To find the woman who had made her feel so bad and yell at her. I wanted to do any number of things for my friend but knew that I could do none of them. So I talked to her some, tried to get her mind off whatever had been said. I directed it on her passion, pottery, and shared with her my project knowing she had bookbinding interests of her own.

I'm not sure when I become more focused inward, but I know that's not going to be the case anymore. I'm missing too much.