I didn't get to blog yesterday, so for those of you who were waiting with bated breath (Hi, Mom!) I apologize. Yesterday was a good day. I helped a man load groceries into his car at Wal-Mart and we got to talking a little bit. It really is a small world as he had lived in Mexico most of his life and he had known my great Uncle Jim Boulware who was a champion skeet shooter for the majority of his life. He seemed surprised at first, almost guarded, when I offered to help him, but I wasn't offended. I wondered what I would feel like if someone approached my Mom and offered to help her load groceries into her car. I would tell her to use her key as a weapon and yell "Fire!" As your parents age, you treat them with the same caution that you treated your child. For example, for the first four years of my son's life, everyone in the world looked like a pedophile. We took Kyser to the mall to meet Santa. He was two and of course he screamed at the top of his lungs and kicked like a mule trying out for the Rockettes. In my mind, my son had a sixth sense: that Santa must have been a seething, evil child molester and Kyser just KNEW IT! It had nothing to do with, I'm certain, the fact that he was fat and red, covered in hair and kept yelling at the top of his lungs.
Nonetheless, it made me realize that sometimes we rob people of things that they need, with all of their hearts, because of our perception of them. I've had that lesson a couple of times this week so far. And I'm really grateful to the man in the parking lot of Wal-Mart who didn't use his key as a weapon and scream "Fire" yesterday. We should be just as willing to be helped, especially when we don't want it or think we need it, as we are to help. And I'm happy to say that Wednesday night, I took the plunge and downloaded a Christmas ringtone for my phone. That's a huge step considering I was ready to strangle Andy Williams with a string of blinking Christmas lights this time last week.
Today, Thursday, I awoke to the news that there was a Powerball winner in Missouri. The second wake-up call came shortly thereafter when I learned it wasn't me. In reality, it's a good thing I don't have a gazillion dollars. No particular reason for that comes to mind right now, but I'm sure one will.
I felt led to venture into the cafeteria during lunch today. I'm there once a week for cafeteria duty on Monday and every now and the spirit moves for Tuesday, which is nacho bar (epic! I highly recommend it if you have some time to drop in!). But today I went for another reason. I realized that maybe the rules that I had already broken on Day 3 were meant to be broken. The one about work suddenly didn't feel so restrictive... Long story short, I went to the cafeteria and asked if there was anything that I could do to help. The 5-day wait for the look of incredulity was sooooooo worth it. The cafeteria manager looked at me like I had just spit in the cheesy dip. I realized then that perhaps trying to find something for me to do to help might actually be more work than just doing everything themselves. Those ladies work hard. Consider this: those two or three teenagers that you have around the house that make things a bit messy... multiply that times about 300 and give them 20 minutes to decide what they want to eat, get it, eat it and rule the world from their cell phones... There aren't a whole lot of thank you's being thrown around in the cafeteria. But the ladies that work our cafeteria are really sweet and incredibly patient. And they work really hard. I know, because I got just a taste of it today. Even though she refused to put me on the front line serving up the cheesy dip which I could have done like a total pro, I did get the chance to help out. I unloaded about six billion boxes of really big cans of fruit. And by six billion I mean 8 and by really big I mean REALLY big. I went back into the cooler and unloaded the boxes. It was about 15 minutes worth of work but my fingers were freezing and sore from opening the boxes. Also I kept smashing them between the cans, just in case you think I'm being a baby. I thought about how little I had contributed considering what they do everyday. It wasn't any picnic being back in the cooler by myself, but I wondered how much more difficult it would have been if I had been standing on my feet since about 6 a.m. in the morning washing dishes. I admit it, I was glad when the bell was about ready to ring. I went back to my semi-warm classroom that much wiser and happier.
I was grateful for several reasons. First, I was grateful for the ladies in the cafeteria; the things they do everyday that matter so much to so many. They receive very little thanks for what they do and they deserve a huge amount of respect. We see 1/10 of the population of the school for 7 hours a day. They get 100 percent of the population for one hour a day. I'm not sure I would want to trade places with them.
Second, I was grateful for the jobs that I had in the past that made me so appreciative of the one that I have now. I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be, despite all of my grumbling and complaining and I love what I get to do everyday. I have met some of the most amazing people who have inspired me, taught me and changed the way I perceive the world around me and myself. But I also know that it was the jobs that I disliked the most that built the most character: working at McDonald's, working at a collection agency, being a dishwasher, cleaning up after other people: everything prepared me for teaching in some small way.
Finally, I got some time to think in that cooler. It was nice to do something like that for a little bit. Not to diminish what I get to do as a teacher, but there's something about real work, the kind that involves a little bit of muscle and the sound of no one else's voice, that provides clarity. I realized that I wasn't as far gone with this whole Christmas thing as I thought I was. God is usually right where we leave Him; I had left Him somewhere between my "thank you" and my "are you kidding me?" I had done and was continuing to do what I was so good at and that is over thinking everything.
And so that's where I'm stopping today... with my Christmas ringtone and my one step closer to being where I ought to be in my heart. That's enough for right now and I'm going to (uncharacteristically) enjoy what I have at this moment...