Tried and Convicted in the Grocery Line

Have you ever been behind someone in the grocery line the first couple days of the month…they’re purchasing a LOT of food. And then, it looks like they’re paying with “food stamps” or whatever they call it these days, and your eyes immediately rake over their food choices. Are they buying healthy food, or junk? Sugared cereals, or healthy grains? Expensive cuts of meat, or cheap hot dogs? I’ve done that. I’m guilty. And I am ashamed for having done that. It’s none of my business.
I’ve had people make comments about what is in my grocery cart when I’m in the grocery store.  Well meaning friends scrutinize my choices.  The check out clerk might make a comment about some of my foods.  It’s none of their business, and I find it embarrassing to have that done in the grocery line.

Often times, that person using food stamps is a young mother with one or more kids in tow. That’s none of my business either. I don’t know what kind of road she has had to travel to get where she is right now.  I don’t know her circumstances, whether she has a chronic illness and is unable to work, cannot find a job, or has just made a series of poor decisions.  Who hasn’t made poor decisions in their lifetime?  Who am I to be making any kind of judgment about her life?

What I don’t understand is if we don’t have some sort of public assistance in our country, who is going to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves?  Yes, I realize the system is taken advantage of by some and it was never meant to be a career choice or lifestyle.  But what about those who genuinely cannot take care of themselves?  What if it was your sister?  Your grandmother?  Your brother?

I hear folks get very heated over this, over “welfare”,  and label everyone who uses it as a bum who should get a job.  There’s a lot of stone throwing by folks who call themselves Christian, too.  This saddens me, because I don’t think that’s what being a Christian is all about.  And if you don’t feel led to help someone, fine, but don’t label everyone who needs help buying groceries.  This is where love and compassion for our fellow man might be put to good use.

I really try not to judge, but I often fall short.  I’m a sinner who is far from perfect.  I also know it is only by the grace of God that I am not on public assistance.  I do not take grocery money for granted.  I don’t mind my tax dollars helping those who need help.

For those taking advantage or cheating the system, I’ll let God do that judging in his own time.  In the meantime, I will try to keep my nose out of other folks grocery carts.  It’s none of my business.


The Power of Nothing

It’s a busy world we live in. From the moment we wake up in the morning to the time we lay down to sleep at night, we’re constantly moving, doing, and thinking. And that can be a good thing. But I’m also an advocate of doing nothing, and doing it often.
I was raised on a small, 32 acre dairy farm in the 60’s and 70’s. Our family of six consisted of mom and dad, two older brothers, myself, and a younger brother who was born severely handicapped. My grandmother lived in a mobile home beside of our farmhouse. Besides the hay fields, corn fields, and cattle, there were always two large gardens being taken care of in the summer, with freezing and canning in late summer. Dad also worked a construction job most of the time. So there was always work to be done somewhere, doing something.
This was my problem…I was born a dreamer. My mind was always someplace else or wishing I was someplace else. I would escape into fairy tale worlds, or dream of riding away from everything on a beautiful black stallion, fading into the sunset. I loved the animals and taking care of feeding the baby calves. But to be honest, there was nothing I hated more than scraping cow poop in the barn or hoeing weeds in the corn fields or gardens. I didn’t mind terribly much carrying pails of milk to the cooler in the milk house, but I hated getting hay out of the haymow for fear of a big black snake being curled up on a bale. I loved spending time with mom and grandma during canning season, and didn’t mind shelling peas and shell beans, but shelling Lima beans made my thumbs so sore I could cry. Sometimes I grumbled and complained and tried, unsuccessfully, to dream myself away.
Taking care of my little brother, Joey, was a task I never fussed about. I loved him. And I would often read to him and he would listen to my voice. He may not have known what I was saying, but I think it brought both of us joy to hear a rousing tale of Three Little Pigs, or a poem from my little book of verses.
Now, Dad always said I was lazy. And I was when it came to all the chores I didn’t like to do, which are the ones he always made me do. I was blessed with two older brothers who mostly got to do all the heavy work. A good work ethic is a wonderful thing to have in life, and I appreciate having been given one from a young age.
With so much work to be done, my dad hated to see me doing nothing. Reading was my passion and what I tried to do every chance I could get, and later it included writing, too. And nothing made my dad angrier than to see me reading or writing because to him, I was doing nothing. Yet, even the sting of the hickory switch and the burn of his belt couldn’t stop me from trying to do “nothing.”
Fifty years later and I’m still hearing voices yelling at me for doing nothing. Until the last few years, vacations of any kind were nonexistent. I would have to plan chores or work to be done around the house or on a project. Guilt would engulf every fiber of my being every time I picked up a book to read. Every time I would pick up paper and pen to write, fear of being found writing would grasp my chest in a stronghold.
Oh, those voices of the past can still be heard. Slowly, I’m learning to silence them somewhat, or at least turn down the volume. I cannot change the fact I was born with this instilled need to dream, read, and write about fact and fiction. Some will still call me lazy. I accept that. But I also now accept this, that doing what I love to do, what some call “nothing,” is exactly what I need to do to survive. When I succumb to the voices, I begin to die inside. When I resist them and follow my passions, I am renewed.
Some of my favorite times of doing nothing are when Maggie and I escape for a stay at a cabin. We’re going back there soon, and I am looking forward to turning the volume off on all the voices from the past and doing absolutely nothing but dreaming, reading, and writing. Doing nothing brings me joy, and I’m no longer apologizing for it. I know when I return home, I will be renewed in body and spirit.

My prayer today is that you find some kind of “nothing” that brings you joy.

I Love My Job!

Who woulda thunk it?  I can honestly say at age 56 that I love my job.  But I had to serve my time in life to get to this point.

At age 17, my goal in life was to get a job, any job, to support myself while I went to college to become a journalist.  My parents refused to support me.  They wanted me to go to the same college my brother did and become something safe, like a secretary, nurse, or medical assistant.  I considered the medical assistant and even visited the college, but my heart wasn’t in it.  I also discovered I did not like the sight of other people’s blood.  And I sure wasn’t willing to kill a bunny rabbit in the laboratory.

operatorAt age 18, I got a job with C&P Telephone Company as a telephone operator.  I also got married.  Our plan, I thought, was for me to work a couple years, then quit and go to college.  It didn’t happen.  The phone company paid well for office work, was union wages, and great benefits.  There was no way my husband was going to support me while I went to college.  I had to work.

So work I did.  Odd hours, holidays, weekends.  I started out on the old cord boards in 1978.  I didn’t mind parts of the job, but I hated the way people treated me.  The phone let anonymous people rip me apart verbally for no reason.  Just saying “hello” got the obscenities started.  After all, I worked for the phone company, I must be a bad person.

I was young, so the crazy hours weren’t really horrible.  Back then I could handle only six hours between shifts.  There’s no way I could do that now.  Now, I would prefer that there be a couple days in between work days.

Much happened with telephone technology over the next thirty years.  Operators needed to keep up with the changes in training and equipment.  Computers took center stage and kept advancing.  I spent some years as a Trainer, some as a Service Assistant, some as Management Replacement, and some as a Telemarketer with AT&T.  I wasn’t very good at that one, but I was a good operator.  And I hated it.  By this time I had several years under my belt and I needed to think about preparing for retirement, a pension, and health insurance, all the things mature adults have to think about.  Doggone it.

So I put in my time and finally had my thirty years of service in.  When they offered me a financial incentive to leave, I thanked them very much and did not let the door hit me in the butt as I high tailed it out of there.  My blood pressure was high, I was depressed and miserable.  I was only 48, which is kind of early for retirement, but my health was an issue and my sanity was going to become an issue.   It was time.

I enjoyed not working for about six months.  It was really nice.  But then there was an opening for a volunteer in the church office to do the monthly newsletter, and I took it.  And then there was a volunteer opening one day a week in the church office as secretary, and I took it.  Then another day was open for a volunteer to prepare the weekly Sunday Bulletin for worship services, and I took it.  Before I knew it, I was volunteering four days a week at the church, four hours a day.  I loved it, but I was also thinking about the future and retirement, and knew I needed a job that paid some money.  I had to keep in mind my social security and whether or not it would even be available when I reached my 60’s.  There was much to consider when I was my only source of income and the only person I could rely on for my future.

In 2010, about two years after I had retired, a new pastor came to our church who was interested in hiring a secretary to work all five days instead of relying on volunteers.  I was blessed to be hired as the new Office Manager.

It’s never boring working at my church.  There are always people in and out, problems to be solved, things happening, and work to be done.  I could not begin to tell you all the things I do.  There’s everything from paying the church’s bills to preparing and publishing the church newsletter and bulletins, ordering supplies for the church and committees, to tracking membership and attendance, and numerous small things that pop up.  There are some days the phone doesn’t stop ringing, and some it doesn’t ring once.  Some days there are several people in and out of the office, and some days none.  Recently, one day within an hour I had five people come into the office starting with, “Will you do me a favor…?”  I enjoy them all.  I love working by myself most of the time, but I also love the fellowship of the church family.

When a young person is starting out, I always tell them to follow their heart in ernestinewhat they do, to not ever let anyone deter them from their passion.  If they have a dream, find a way.  I hold fast to that.  I will never know how my life would have turned out had I followed my first passion, but that’s OK with me now.  I took a long detour, but I have a job now I love, it makes me smile, and I get to do some writing now and then.  I think God has me where he wants me, for now.