I come from a proud tradition of eccentrics, and my father has his own share of cheerfully embraced oddities. At an earlier point in his life, he decided that he was eating far more peanut butter than was healthy, and so he began stowing the jar of peanut butter in his mailbox across the street from his apartment so that it was more difficult to get at when he was feeling “snack-ish”.
After hearing this story, my boyfriend came up with the idea of using the phrase, “Putting the peanut butter in the mail box,” to describe any sort of behavior that has its own internal logic, but which appears odd or strange from an outside perspective. For instance, when, during college, I used a luggage cart to roll my laundry hamper to the laundromat with a rigged-up umbrella covering the whole contraption, (it was raining heavily that day, and I didn’t want my laundry to get wet in transit), I was putting my peanut butter in the mail box. It looked completely crazy. It made sense. I stand by my decision. Whatever.
As I mentioned before, I am using this phrase to refer to behaviors that do have some sort of logical basis. However, they may appear bizarre or unusual to outside observers, and they may go against the grain of society and/or ruffle feathers. My belief is that historical visionaries and activists such as Jesus of Nazareth or Mother Theresa were, “Putting their peanut butter in the mail box,” with some of the ways they showed up in the world.
In these two cases, they were willing to go against the grain because they believed strongly in their vision for the ways in which the world could be better. I realize that I am making some generalizations about two enormously influential and revered figures, so bear with me. These are broad strokes, and I realize that I am not doing either of them justice. At all. My point is that sometimes living out our beliefs can make us appear odd in the eyes of others. Sometimes people will not understand what the hell you are doing. Similar to my father’s neighbors when they saw him approach his mail box, open it, and pull out a jar of peanut butter.
Although putting one’s peanut butter in the mail box is not a perfect metaphor for the lives of visionaries like Jesus, (because then I guess I would be comparing my dad wanting peanut butter to Jesus wanting everyone to treat each other kindly, and that’s just confusing and mildly offensive), the reason I bring it up is that sometimes choosing to act in accordance with our values leads us to go against the grain, and we have to deal with appearing weird in the eyes of others.
I believe that we live in a time when it is both more possible and more critical for all of us to embrace our own unique strengths and passions, and to bring our talents and gifts into the world proudly and loudly. I don’t need to list the myriad ways in which the planet and the human race are in trouble. We have all heard it before. We know. At the same time, more and more people are looking for new ways of being and living on this planet that are more sustainable, more equitable, more efficient and just all around healthier. And if I want to do something truly innovative in my life, which I do, I will have to do things differently. And that means that I may just have to put my peanut butter in the mail box once or twice.