Wednesday, January 10, 2007

A Day in a Life....

Today the office reopened after two week’s recess over Christmas-New Year.
And I thought I would get in early to clear my desk and tidy up the admin.
So I opened the door to the smell of fermenting homemade ginger beer….oh yes, the bottle had exploded in my hands on the day before Christmas and I had just closed the door on it. Bad idea. For a not inconsiderable donation, Pauline, the college caretaker, agreed to sort out the smell, and the floor, and the walls, and the ceiling, and the residue on the photocopy machine.

Then there was Joe. Who had lived on the premises over Christmas with his friend G-Boy. They were there to prevent opportunists from stealing the copper plumbing pipes while the property was quiet. They are both recovering alcoholics. And I had regularly checked on them in the past two weeks, and praised them for their courage at sticking to their sobriety over Christmas and New Year Celebrations. Until this morning: when they both celebrated their Successfully Sober Holidays by getting drunk. And now I had to deal not only with them, but with irate church members who wanted to know what they were doing on the premises (the college is on church property). Joe is a quiet apologetic drunk. G-Boy gets aggressive and promises to kill the whole world (literally “Fok hulle op”). I prevented Joe from selling his radio for wine, and walked him to his place of work. He thanked me profusely for saving his job by getting him to work, shook my hand many times, and began to unpack his tools. I chased G-Boy off to moer people elsewhere.

OK: here was my desk. Piled with sermons and orders of worship and music from Carol Service/Christmas/Old Year’s Eve/ and First Sunday in the New Year. OK – now to tidy up. Oh shit, there is someone at the door. She has two toddlers with her. Boys. And as I invite her into my office they make straight for my fish tank. I try to listen to their mother. Who begins the long story about financial difficulties, homelessness, joblessness …. I grab the boys just as they are trying to fish my goldfish out of the tank …and how she needs a prayer to change her luck …and I grab the boys as they swing around on my office chair...and about her husband and her sisters and his parents: at which point I firmly grab her boys and head for the church to pray with the family. “Thank you God for giving us this opportunity to trust your mercy”.

Now for my desk. And the church busy body arrives who wants to kiss everybody Happy New Year. “I hope you had a lovely holiday” she tells me. I reply that I have worked fairly hard over the past two weeks. She looks at me blankly, and says “Oh, but the office was closed”. I reply firmly that I had taken all the services during the time that she was away on holiday. “Oh, but you weren’t here on Sunday” she exclaimed triumphantly. I replied that I was in the neighbouring church in the morning, at an old-age home in the afternoon, and at the evening service in my own church. “Oh, well I did not see you.”

And then my first student for 2007 arrived. And expected me to have accommodation and food ready for him. And I felt really good in being able to show him his room and a box of groceries – organized before Christmas in anticipation of just this happening. For good measure I showed him the kitchen, the lounge with the TV, and the computer room. He looked around and asked: “But where is the iron and ironing board”. Sheesh!

My desk…. And then the phone rings. It is Joe’s employer to ask me where Joe is. My secretary was the one who arranged Joe’s job as caretaker at the block of flats, and they know that he is staying at the church. I am dumbstruck. I am told “Joe is not here and his store room is locked”. Bloody hell. I have no answers.

In fact I have had no answers all day!
I had no answer for Joe and G-Boy this morning. I had no answer for the woman and her toddlers. I had no answer for the church busybody. And no answer for my student.
Which goes against my grain, because I have been trained to provide answers. I am a baby boomer after all. Boomer pastors give answers. And if we do not have one immediately we buy books that promise answers: Four Spiritual Laws, 7 Habits, Twelve Keys, 40 Days of Purpose. And I have just had a day without answers.
All I did was spend time with some people.
Perhaps there are moments when this is enough.


Wessel Bentley said...

How true!I stepped into the office, hearing that one of our neigbours living next to our new church was murdered. They suspect that the murderer is one of the squatters on our property. Busy body, the same.

It is sometimes difficult to love all these people. Sometimes I'm tempted to think that I should love these people, because that is what I'm paid to do. Sometimes I fall to this temptation.

Strength for 2007!

digitaldion said...

Wow, what a first day back in the office! It sounds like you need a holiday!



Anonymous said...

Tell me: Why does "Rock in the Grass" rhyme so nicely with "Cock in my ass?"

Explain that to the church busy body!

Anonymous said...

I have come to see that that is life when we are in the people business. They are primary and our 'work' is secondary.
of course it is debateable as to what our work is?........
It is the people, but they also involve other aspects of 'work' to sustain our 'work' with them.

The outside world will never understand how difficult and complex it is to balance the two.....

ho hum.... give me bottle of rum...

Murray & Gina UK said...

I'm really enjoying and appreciating your current thinking about not being down on ourselves for not living up to the fictional idea of who we should be! Thank you for helping me to be ok with being lousy at organising!

Anonymous said...

Ja swaer, some days they puke into your life and other days they pour in the good wine. I recall another oke who had the same encounters next to a big dam in the east. You are in good company I think!
Pieter G