Giving thanks for Robert Moon and Henry Bentley Hahn, Sr.: The history of ZIP codes and the transforming power of gratitude

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Giving thanks for Robert Moon and Henry Bentley Hahn, Sr.: The history of ZIP codes and the transforming power of gratitude

July 1, 2020 -

© Diversity Stock/

© Diversity Stock/

© Diversity Stock/

I work in zip code 75252. Previously, I worked in zip code 75225. Before that, it was 30305 and before that, it was 79701.

These are just numbers to me, but to the US Postal Service, they are vital information. Their employees would know that I work in North Dallas now, moving here from the Park Cities area of Dallas. Previously I worked in Atlanta, Georgia, and before that, Midland, Texas.

Why is this information relevant today? Because today is the anniversary of the US Postal Service Zone Improvement Plan, known to us as ZIP codes, first implemented in 1963.

Previously, the Postal Service utilized postal zones for many large cities, an innovation it began in 1943. For example, your address could include Minneapolis 16, Minnesota. However, as cities began to grow, more specificity was required.

Enter Robert Moon and Henry Bentley Hahn, Sr. Working as a postal inspector in 1944, Mr. Moon submitted a proposal that led to the Sectional Center Facility (SCF) designation comprising the first three digits of the ZIP code. An SCF is a central mail processing facility.

The fourth and fifth digits give a more precise location within the SCF and were proposed by Mr. Hahn.

Mail is sent to the appropriate SCF according to the first three digits. SCF employees, most of whom work the night shift, then sort it to the various post offices according to the last two digits. SCF facilities do not deliver mail and are not open to the public, though they may include a public post office.

The history of ZIP codes and the transforming power of gratitude

You now know more about ZIP codes than you probably knew before. Other than its anniversary, what makes this topic relevant today?

Consider the fact that every piece of mail you receive is delivered to you as the result of people you do not know and will likely never meet. I had never heard of Robert Moon or Henry Bentley Hahn, Sr., before today. I had no idea Sectional Center Facilities exist and do not know where the one that processes my mail is located. I have not even met the postal worker who delivers mail to my house.

When the pandemic began, those who process and deliver our mail continued their vital work despite the dangers they face. They obviously cannot work remotely. While I can do my job with a laptop and an internet connection, they cannot.

Postal work was already difficult, with repetitive strain injuries, respiratory problems, and job stress as perennial challenges. Now they are dealing with COVID-19 as well.

All this to say, gratitude for those who serve us is both urgent and appropriate. We are to “give thanks in all circumstances” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) for the God’s gifts to us (Colossians 3:17). Paul told the Ephesians, “I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers” (Ephesians 1:16).

Every person who serves us today, including the people who deliver our mail, deserve our respect and thanks.

In fact, an attitude of gratitude is an indication of spiritual maturity. Henri Nouwen noted: “Gratitude is the awareness that life in all its manifestations is a gift for which we want to give thanks. The closer we come to God in prayer, the more we become aware of the abundance of God’s gifts to us.”

In other words, we can measure our intimacy with God by our gratitude for others.

How close to God are you today?

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