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Stamp-Sized Love With Every Letter

`Isn't the post office ever going to run out of that darned mountain goat?'' I whined to the clerk. He looked at me indulgently with just a trace of disgust and immediately whipped out a sheet of stamps showing Old Glory waving in the breeze.

''Well,'' I commented, ''at least that's better than that old goat!'' Then, as an inspired afterthought, I asked eagerly, ''Have you any love stamps?''

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''Nope,'' he replied with finality.

Wanting to justify my request, I hurriedly added, ''You know, Valentine's Day is almost here.''

''Oh, when is that?'' he asked. I stated the date and continued reciting those for Mother's Day and Father's Day. All the while, he patiently listened and then politely assured me that the love stamps would be available next week. I marched out glowing in my small triumph over the postal department.

The following week, I lined up early to purchase an ample supply of love stamps, which were quickly forthcoming. But then, in the interest of being more practical, I also bought a sheet of the old goat, and, armed with my costly postage, I went home to indulge in my favorite hobby - sending greeting cards, commencing with those for Valentine's.

Each of those envelopes bore a love stamp, naturally. And when I finished this enjoyable task, I laid aside the love stamps, took the sheaf of bills stacked on my desk awaiting payment, and began to lick and stamp each check-bearing envelope with an old goat when suddenly I stopped mid-lick.

Why was I discriminating with my postage stamps? Didn't I want to love the gas company, the electric company, the water department, the credit-card companies, and certainly the telephone company? Didn't they need love? Why was I posting their envelopes with the goat instead?

The cost was identical, but somehow it seemed rather wasteful, I rationalized. But what was I wasting? Is love ever wasted? ''Never!'' my consciousness proclaimed loud and clear, and I reached for love.

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Now, of course, I must use up the goats, and I hasten to explain to those who may have read thus far, whether you are a philatelist or an ecologist, or just a much more observant individual than I - that the stately animal commemorated on this stamp is really the American bighorn sheep, which has silently borne the brunt of my ignorance, but now commands my respect, if not my sentimental regard. (Goat, indeed.)

The postal service surely receives its share of criticism, and I must confess to ignorance of the process by which postage stamps come to bear the likenesses of presidents, educators, explorers, inventors, pioneers, and crusaders, as well as flags, historical events, and subjects of the animal and bird kingdoms. But this I do know and affirm: There will never be a better subject for commemoration than love - be it spelled out in spring flowers, in hearts, or in vibrant splashes of color. And just think - it costs only 32 cents.

I wish I could thank someone directly for this choice, but failing that, you may rest assured that I intend to continue purchasing and sending love on all my correspondence from now on - bills included.

For I cannot think of many moments more happifying than when I hurry to my mailbox and find envelopes bearing the word love. Can you?

What's more, I take added joy in seeing in my mind's eye this beautiful word passing from person to person even as the envelopes go from hand to hand, machine to machine, or even from waste basket to shredder, because I know that love must catch the eye (and perchance the heart) of every handler.

I close now and send this along to everyone - yes, with all my love - especially to the US postal service!

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