Cost of Kindness

09/30/2022 12:34 AM By Lisa Anderson
History of Us
Dianne Matheson
Dianne Matheson
Story by Taylor Strickland • Photos by Joshua Jacobs

Cost of Kindness

Retired Postmaster Continues to Give

“Community is all about serving others,” claims Dianne Matheson, retired postmaster and mother to local pastor Craig Jacobs. As one of 10 children, this was a lesson that most certainly started at home. 

Born and raised in the bitter cold of Northern Vermont, Dianne spent most of her early life moving around a series of small tenant farms. “We were poor folks, but we didn’t know it. Mama never said we were poor, because we had a farm where we grew our own vegetables. Daddy filled our freezer with venison. Our beds were clean, and we had clothes to wear.” 

Despite the scarcity, Dianne’s large family remained generous and accommodating throughout her youth. “Mama was always taking someone in. My four adopted siblings were originally neighbors. Their father was a truck driver, and their mother took off while he was working and left them alone.”

Between Dianne’s father, mother, uncle, grandfather, natural and adopted siblings, and a rotating number of neighborhood friends, there was always a full house—which meant that there was also always more than enough work to go around. “We all had to pitch in,” shares Dianne. “The older children had to care for the little ones. You had to share your room and share your clothes.” 

In fact, Dianne doesn’t remember a time in her childhood where she didn’t have to share. “All of my aunts and uncles had children around the same age, so every year before school started, an aunt would bring clothes for us. In return, Mama washed and packaged all of our clothes and sent them to some other family.” Though some may have grown to resent the communal living, Dianne was just happy to be of service. 

“In school, I always wanted to be a helper. I was a people pleaser—sometimes to my detriment.”

Hard Times

Unfortunately, Dianne soon learned that the lessons in kindness and humility her family imparted to her were not universal. “I had a couple of abusive marriages,” she shares hesitantly. “I didn’t want to disappoint anyone, so I stayed a lot longer in some of them than I should have.” It was in the midst of one of these unhappy relationships that Dianne moved to Florida. 

Despite three marriages during her son’s childhood, Dianne often found herself either acting or actively living as a single mother. It was often only through faith and the kindness of others that they were able to get by. “Sometimes, I couldn’t do it on my own, and people from the community would reach out and offer to help us.”

To support her little family of two, Dianne worked many jobs before finding her way to the U.S. Postal Service. At one point, Dianne was taking a shift at the post office in the morning, a shift at the bank in the afternoon, and returning to the post office in the evening. “I didn’t have time to go home, so I brought clothes to change into at the bank, freshened up after my shift at the post office, and then went back to the bank to finish the day. I did whatever job I could [at the post office]. I wanted a foot in the door.”

Once she found a way in, Dianne spent 19 years with the Postal Service. “Post offices were a lot like general stores, back in the day,” she explains. “They were gathering places. I loved it, because I love helping people. I had so much contact with the community. I talked and prayed with people that needed help. It’s a shame people don’t have the time nowadays.”

When asked how she endured those tumultuous years, Dianne points to the sense of purpose instilled in her at a young age. “There is no time for crying when others need you.”

Coming Home

Dianne met her fourth and final husband when she was only 9 years old. Daniel Matheson was the best friend of her elder brother and among the rotating list of children that lived with Dianne’s family for a time. They reconnected after Dianne’s third divorce and the death of Dan’s wife, “I sent a card to offer my condolences, and Dan’s daughter told him to pick up the phone and call me.”

Unlike her previous marriages, Dianne’s relationship with Dan was the kindest she had ever known. “It was like we had always loved each other, because we grew up together. It was like coming home.” Dan and Dianne spent 18 happy years together before his passing in 2018.

Though grateful for the time they had together, Dianne wonders how different her life might have been had she chosen him from the beginning. “If I had married the last first, I could have saved my son and myself a lot of suffering.” 

The Basis Unity

Since her retirement from the post office, Dianne now serves her community through the church where her son ministers. She makes hospital visits to comfort the afflicted, participates in community parades and charity drives, quilts blankets for those who have lost loved ones, and always makes sure to reach out to her neighbors. 

If Dianne could impart anything about herself to others, it would be that community and kindness the basis of unity. “No matter your hardships, don’t let them keep you from being kind. Kindness costs you nothing.”
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