MCLEAN, Va. — In a world where deadlines and to-do lists rule everyday routines, a sense of community can be hard to find.
For many people, mail delivery isn't considered a notable part of their daily routine, but for members in several McLean neighborhoods, their letter carrier has chosen to impact not only their daily routine, but possibly their lives for years to come.
At 28 years old, Scott Arnold joined the United States Postal Service where he has taken the “service” aspect, further than what many would expect. To the community's surprise, Arnold decided to finally retire 40 years later. The 67-year-old has driven the same route for 30 years. It was a tough but necessary decision that has left Arnold and his customers both heartbroken and excited.
"I used to say that they would have to carry me out of there before I would leave because I never thought about this," Arnold said. "Now I say I have to leave before they actually carry me out of here because the heat has become too much for me and I've got two grandkids at home I want to be with."
There is care and passion behind every part of his job from neatly placing letters and packages upon people's homes to getting to know his customers' names.
Raquel Collins-Milinkovich has been a member of Arnold's mail route for the past year. While fairly new to the neighborhood, Raquel was able to see Arnold's authenticity and generosity from the very beginning.
“He always stops, and never drives by," Collins-Milinkovich said. "It's not a wave for him but it's a 'Hey, how's your day?'"
Living in a world where the pandemic has pushed individuals into times of solitude, Collins-Milinkovich praised Arnold on his ability to integrate members of the neighborhood. She and her husband, son and dog moved to the neighborhood from Memphis a little over a year ago.
"He really brought the community together when we were in this strange period of isolation," she said. "To see his smiling face every day greeting you and your dogs felt like some sense of normalcy."
Not only did Arnold greet humans, but he made sure the furry friends of the community never went unappreciated. When meeting a new family, Arnold would ask the names of both humans and dogs, which led him to his conclusion that animals deserve to receive a "package" from the mailman just as much as humans do during the holidays.
"What are you getting? What are you doing? So I decided to start doing something for them. I started making a stocking with a bow on it and called myself Santa Paws," he said.
From that year on, Scott gifted each and every dog on his route a stocking around Christmas time. In his first year, Scott designed 41 stockings. More than 20 years later, Scott handcrafted and delivered 300 stockings on his final Christmas season as a mail carrier.
Day after day, dogs and humans alike wait to greet Arnold.
"For a mailman to recognize the importance of including animals in your family it was really touching," Collins-Milinkovich added. "He is aware of people's losses, and the gains they have and he always acknowledges those."
Arnold isn’t a stranger to loss himself. In 2020, his beloved son died at the age of 37. While already grieving the loss of his son, the pandemic altered life as he knew it, leaving Arnold to face a reality he had never experienced before.
"Everyone was so helpful and supportive, and you just don't know how much that meant to me," Arnold said. "The outpouring of affection and support just blew me away."
Instead of letting his loss diminish his passion for his job, Arnold utilized his career to maintain his sense of routine.
"Even in his own losses, connecting to the community always put him in a better headspace," Collins-Milinkovich noted.
Unknowingly, Arnold became a glue for the community where neighbors have gotten to know each other even more when he announced his retirement, and where support and appreciation naturally became a two-way street.
With his retirement approaching, Arnold reached out to his community via letter, as an opportunity to say thank you and goodbye. Members of his route have reciprocated his generosity, by placing balloons on their mailboxes and signs in their yard to celebrate.
"It's been a privilege and a pleasure to be your carrier all these years and to come to know you," Arnold emphasized. "You've accepted me, and I've accepted you. Like I say, it's family to me and it kills me to leave."
Arnold and a fellow USPS mail carrier will celebrate their retirement in a joint ceremony on Thursday.