Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Holiday sharing…

We had turkey leftovers, of course, the day after Thanksgiving. And they were tasty; my sister had done wonderful work with the bird. Still, my family dined at Burger King the following lunch, which I hesitate to admit, since some would call that fast-food indulgence a terrible moral failing. Perhaps they’re right, particularly since we weren’t there as a Black Friday pit stop. Rather, we made this trip to the BK lounge intentionally, on purpose. Had we sacrificed our culinary integrity on the altar of laziness and french fry dependence? One might think, until learning that my niece was there at work.

Yes, my family forewent day-old turkey sandwiches, an American tradition, in order to order carnivorous delights from seventeen year-old Kayla. Oh, the memories that experience brought to mind! Seeing her sport those BK blue khakis, an over-sized polo shirt, hair pulled back by a floppy visor, surrounding a wispy white hairnet, I recalled the years I spent employed by KFC. An Assistant Manager, I’ll have you know, after only nine months employment. Indeed, by the time I was entering college, I’d had enough such experience that, for a summer, the local Burger King also hired me to manage their morning rush. After which, I’d rest several hours, then work at KFC during dinner. Thus, I made some decent coin that summer, despite my barely over minimum wages. Though it took several weeks, by the end, to clear the grease smell from my car.

And those weren’t the toughest jobs I ever attempted. For several years, every Sunday and on most major holidays, I drove to a local warehouse around 3 AM to help Denver Post delivery personnel. You see, the newspaper would be delivered to that building around then, at which point the carriers would stuff sections together, wrap them with rubber bands and load into vehicles. On weekends, though, the final products were large and heavy, nearly impossible to prepare on tome without help for some more physically challenged employees. Thus, the warehouse boss paid me to assist the folding, bagging, moving, loading, until all had left, when I’d sweep the floors, empty the garbage cans and head home to shower for church. I’ve also cleaned pools in pre-dawn hours, worked as a tire shop errand boy, even tried my hand at home construction for several miserably unsuccessful weeks. All those memories flooded my inner self this recent holiday weekend, watching my family’s next generation begin her own employment journey.

Honestly, I’m glad that my work these days is more often cerebral than physical. I enjoy the writing and creating, building relationships and generating ideas. But as I recently pondered my early experiences, I remembered an oft-overlooked fact: though those jobs could be hard, the hours long, the tasks unwelcome, in every instance, I found joy and purpose. I often loved what I did.

Truly. I had lots of fun; not all the time, but often. Whatever the stereotypes of such work some peddle and mock, I’m glad I had the opportunity in those days to do those jobs. I made friends. I learned resilience. I gained deeper appreciation for others. And the thing that most strikes me now, in this unexpected moment of retrospect, is the powerful ability of so many to laugh and make good out of tough times. I mean, as much as I respect paper carriers, I’ll admit, their job ain’t easy. Still, most mornings in the warehouse, we found time to share jokes, to lighten the mood. That says something, I imagine, about joy residing in the human spirit. Whatever the place, it’s possible to make meaningful connections and share happiness.

So as we ponder this month the Christmas hardships of Mary and Joseph in the manger, the hillside shepherds, the long-traveling magi, to say nothing of all those millions who work hard holiday hours- shipping overnight packages, serving early morning Starbucks, allowing last-minute, late-night gifts- let us give thanks for all who make up our community. And remember that wherever we are, whatever we’re enduring, we can discover joy, as well as share joy with whomever we encounter. Chances are, they’re looking to smile too.

Grace and Peace,


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