I though I'd never see the day I'd entrust anyone with my last-minute tax return, tax payment or tax extension. I've lived to witness the arrival of that day, and I want to tell you how great I feel about it. It all happened just a few hours before the deadline for filing income tax returns fell?#34;around 7:30 or 8 o'clock on April 15, 2005 (the date my faith was restored in the ideas of trust and community).
I, along with several other procrastinating pilgrims, descended upon the main post office on Lake Street to deliver and be rid of, so we assumed, whatever burdens preparing this odious narrative had caused us. I felt a lightness in my step when I first got out of my car, telling myself that I'd breathe deeper once the postmaster took this envelope. I'd planned to cap off the evening by renting a high-adventure escapist movie and kicking back with some Boy Scout popcorn.
I knew something was amiss when I saw a small crush of people huddled around the side entrance of the post office. Then I heard the wails and moans of disbelief.
"How can they do this to us?" a woman who looked as if she'd just licked the bitter glue of her state and federal returns said.
"What are we supposed to do now? I thought they were supposed to stay opened till midnight," came another sharp-edged voice.
Pasted on the window of the post office door were pink fliers that listed alternate post office sites.
"Elmhurst, Villa Park, Chicago? Why do we have to go that far? We pay taxes in Oak Park. This post office should be open. Isn't it supposed to be opened?"
There was a moment of panic. We'd all worked so hard toward the idea that we would be rid of this weight?#34;that we'd fulfilled our obligation to the nation, been good citizens, American.
"I'm going to take mine down to the central post office on Harrison Street in Chicago," said the clear and unwavering voice cutting through the thick and collecting anxiety. "If you want to trust me with your returns, I'll take them along with mine."
It was Dennis Bracco, a real straight-up guy who lived two doors down from me?#34;one of the first family men I met when I moved to Oak Park, a prince. Colleen, his wife was in the car watching the drama unfold. She knows his valor, his goodness.
Eyeballs started darting around. You have to understand, these were envelopes that contained collectively hundreds of hours of chasing lost receipts, coffee-stained W2s, H&R Block, Uncle Louie who's been doing his taxes and everyone else's besides. This was a serious matter. Perhaps because people were so fatigued from getting their returns ready?#34;and exhausted from finally working through the torture of the process?#34;the thought of having to go to a post office in another community, suburb or town, the thought of having to continue the tax return dance, was just too much, and one by one people started handing over their envelopes to Dennis.
I had also decided to drive down to the Harrison Street office, but since Dennis was going there, and all the high-adventure movies were flying off the shelf, I gave up my envelope with no doubt that it would get to its destination. Goodness, citizenship, trust, and a deep sense of caring. Since I've known him, these have always been his hallmarks.
"You sure it's no bother?" a disbelieving person said as Dennis continued collecting envelopes.
"I'm going there anyway," Dennis said.
I left my envelope with him, remembering how our children had grown up, the backyard summers and the magical innocence of watching them while they were playing.
I remember his love of Motown, the generosity of his family, our block parties and all of the political and social discussion we had while sitting on each other's stoop. Dennis Bracco is a real stand-up guy and I'm proud to know him.