Postal Service: “The Mowing Mailman”

April 14th, 2008 by Kathy McManus

A Florida postal carrier’s deeds inspire an entire community.

Brought to you by Liberty Mutual's
The Responsibility Project

Eric Wills has gone postal in a provocative new way.

Wills is a mailman in St. Petersburg, Florida, with 480 people on his route. The mail he delivers to them--from high-end catalogues to bundles of bills--speaks volumes.

So, as it turns out, does the condition of their yards.

After weeks of silently cursing an overgrown thicket blocking his path to a front door mail slot, 30 year-old Wills was struck with an insight that would change the lives of many of his customers, and ultimately his own.

Un-mowed lawns, he realized, were a cry for help.

He knocked on the offender’s door. An old man answered and said that the lawn was the least of his worries. So Wills cut the man’s grass. For free. Two weeks later, using his own mower, he did it again. And again.

Soon Wills was taking on other unkempt yards along his route, mowing for free on his days off and buying extra gas for his sputtering old mower. After two years, he was mowing 15 yards, all for free.

He had been searching for a way to give back, he said, and mowing the lawns of his needy customers was “just my little way of making a difference.”

His good deeds were discovered by a local newspaper reporter, who wrote a story about the mowing mailman, including his phone number in case anyone else needed help.

Strangers started calling, but not about their lawns. They wanted to give back.To Eric Wills.

Ninety people sent money for gas--$3,500. Three people donated riding mowers that cut grass, and time. A landscaper volunteered to help with planting. Another well-wisher had a custom trailer built for hauling the new mowing gear.

But the best gift of all, Wills said, was inspiring others. One man wrote that he’d been pondering for years whether he should look after his elderly neighbors. “Reading your story,” he said, “might push me over the edge from thinking to doing.”

Eric Wills was mowed over.