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The Cheerful Pizza Guy

pizza

New baby in a new family at our church.

I think I’ve met them once, but even if I don’t know them, I do know the chaos of the first few weeks post-birth, so I signed up to send them a meal right away.

“Meal” should be in quotes.  Really, I signed up to send them easy comfort food: pizza, breadsticks, cookies.  Nothing healthy, nothing to increase milk supply, just plain old hot, cheesy pizza that makes you say, with a sigh, “Ahhh.  Dinner is ready and I didn’t have to make it!”

So I get out my computer and am about to type in the name of a national pizza chain when I suddenly, inexplicably, type in a local chain instead.  No reason.  It just sort of comes out that way.  It surprises me a little, but since I only have ten minutes to order before I need to get the kids out the door for errands before dark, which is early this time of year… does it matter?

It did.

I find the store in the same town, order the food. Pay.  Slam the lid of the computer and start hollering for kids to get in the car.

Fight traffic.  Find a parking spot.  Try to get the items on my list, but no one knows where they are in the store.  The second employee makes up an aisle number where we should look and disappears.  Urgh.  Phone rings.

I don’t recognize the number.  Uncharacteristically, I answer anyway.  Does it matter?

It does.

“Hi, it’s Josh, the pizza delivery guy.  What’s the apartment number?”

Wait. What?  “Umm, I don’t think there is one.”

“Well, the address you put in is an apartment building.”

“Are you sure?”

He answered cheerfully in spite of the intelligence of my question.  “Yup. I’m in front of it.”

“Jeepers.  I don’t know…”  The kids are starting to drift down the aisle and I beckon them impatiently.  “Let me check.  Can I call you back in just a minute?”

“Sure,” he says, like he has free time to wait for me.

I look for the email.  No apartment number in the address.  I text the Meals Coordinator.  No answer.  I send an email to the family.  No answer.  I can feel my face getting red.  I look up to catch the irritated eye-roll of a passing shopper.  ‘People on their phones when they should be watching their kids,’ he seemed to glare at me.

I press the number of the pizza guy, who answers, ever cheerfully.

“Sorry.  I can’t find it.  Can you knock on a door and ask?”

“Nope.  That’s not something I can do.”

I sigh.  “Well, there’s nothing else I can do.  I’m sorry to send you out there for nothing.”  Inside, I’m sick that the cost of the meal is going to waste.

“That’s okay,” he responds, “Thanks!”

I hang up irritated and recall the drifting children with a snap at the hands proffering items that are not on our list accompanied by wheedling whines.

Someone cuts in front of me on the way to the checkout, and I consciously bite my tongue.  You know, I spit to myself, this always seems to happen when you’re trying to do something good.  Why can’t a simple meal delivery just work out smoothly? And now all that money has gone to waste. That’s what irritates me the most.

On the way to the car, I explain the situation to the kids.  “I’m really frustrated,” I tell them when I finish.  They can tell.

We’ve just finished packing the car when the text notification dings.  The Meals Coordinator.  She doesn’t know the apartment number.  “Oh well,” I think.  “Onward.”

Scrolling through email as my son drives us out of the parking lot.  Message from the family!  With the apartment number!  They are sorry they didn’t send it.  Sorry for causing the mix up.  I feel a little guilty for getting so easily irritated.  I press the pizza guy’s number.

“Hi!  I’m the lady without the apartment number. I have it!  Can you go back?”

“Oh, my boss already refunded it.  You’ll have to order again.”

I thank him, and hang up, surprised that they would refund the undelivered meal.  Wow!  Maybe I could have handled that whole money thing a little more gracefully.  A quick search on my phone reveals the store and their number.  I call.  The manager is kind.  I use The Card and order right from the phone.  I have the address memorized.

“Do you want to add in a tip?” the manager inquires.  I think about the cheerful guy fielding my frantic questions and frenzied requests, knowing he has to make another trip out there.  I add on a chunky tip.  ‘He really deserves it,’ I think.

An hour later, I get a message from the family.  Pizza was good!  I am relieved and glad I have done my job – new baby’s family is fed! Mission accomplished.  I glance at my phone.  Missed call from the pizza delivery guy – I recognize his number by now.

I call him back. He wants to say thanks for the tip.  I thank him and tell him why the meal was so important.  New baby.  Tired parents.  Post-partum craziness.

“Oh, I understand that,” he says emphatically. “We just had a baby, too, and those first few days were so hard!”  I congratulate him, thank him again, and hang up.

But a thought is tumbling in my head.

New baby.  Pizza delivery guy: minimum wage plus tips.  Not making a ton of money, for sure.  Diapers, wipes, Mom recovering. I bet things are tough.  But he’s so cheerful!

New scheme emerges – baby gifts for the pizza guy!

A daycare-sized box of wipes and another of diapers, and we are headed to the pizza store.  I don’t know anything more than the guy’s first name and the store whose pizzas he delivers.

I text his number and warn him we’re coming.

My kids help me tote in the treasure and plunk it heavily on the bench.  The manager asks if he can help me.

“Uh, do you have a delivery driver named Josh?”

Yes, they do. He’s out on a delivery now.

“Does he have a new baby?” I wonder, hoping I have it right.

Yes, although the manager looks at me a little suspiciously.

“These are for him,” I say, sliding a card on top of the stack, hoping the manager will deliver them to the delivery guy.

Fifteen minutes later, the text notification is chiming again.

It’s Josh.

“Just received your thoughtful gift!  You have no idea what that means to me and my fiancé with the month we have had. I’ve been in the hospital for 2 weeks having multiple surgeries and was off work for a month due to the hospital. Then someone decides to back into me last Friday while I was working and totaled my vehicle.  You have definitely made my week and my fiance’s!  Thank you so much!”

My face is getting hot again as a litany of lessons learned marches through my mind.

Little decisions matter.

Cheerfulness makes a difference.

Skip the irritation, something bigger is happening.

Be kind. You never know what’s going on in a person’s life.

Oxygen Tank

 

The thing about teaching CPR – there’s so much equipment to lug around!  Mannequins, face shields, AEDs, and paperwork, paperwork, paperwork.  It’s a full-body workout by the time I close up shop for the day.  This class was for healthcare personnel, so I got to leave everything in the classroom but this backpack.

Wanna know why it’s so heavy?  Oxygen cylinder.  Gives you appreciation for people who have to tote around oxygen everywhere they go.  Now you appreciate that little cart.

So anyway, here I am going down the steps to the subway.  Typical rush hour crowd, smell of urine, flaking tiles, intermittent lights.  I get on the uptown train and stand for the first three stops until the old lady with her dog clears out of the seats by the back door.  I drop myself into the window seat and carefully lower the backpack to the floor.

Next stop, this guy sits down, crosses a Ked sneaker over his corduroy knee and ignores me.  Cause that’s what we do here.  We are passing Madison when the train starts to shiver and then jerks to a stop.  Bump-bump-bump, you know?  Not unusual, but then an alarm starts ringing, and everyone looks up. You can see the concern on their faces, you know?  Everyone hoping it’s just a little thing that’s gonna clear up in a minute and we can get on home to dinner, right?

It’s not.

The alarm keeps ringing and ringing, and then the lights go out.  We’re sitting in a box in the dark three stories underground in a little black tunnel with wires running down the walls.  It’s hot.  Everyone lights up their phones and start calling, “What’s happening?  What’s happening?”

Then the car starts to rock, and we think, earthquake?  Here?  This is like, the unseismic capital of the world.  Then the noise comes.  It’s a noise, but it more like a wave of violent sound that shakes the train and spills us on the floor like a bunch of beans in a box.

In the dark, the screams are scary.  People frantically lever the doors, force them open, and when they do, the gas comes in.

You can’t smell it, but you sure can taste it.  Bitter.  Nauseating.  Dries the throat instantly, rips at your lungs just for taking a breath.  I hear retching.

It must be instinct, like looking down at the scene of a cardiac arrest and finding you’re already doing chest compressions on the guy.  I look down, and I’m cranking the regulator on my oxygen bottle and digging in the pack for a tube.

The screaming is over.  Now it’s coughing and gagging, but that is dying out.  So are the passengers.  I’m holding my breath, attaching the tube to the bottle. Now I’m hooking the tube to the mask.  I don’t take time to fill the reservoir bag, I just suck in a breath of O2.  Then another.  The guy in the next seat is kicking me.  Not me, I realize as my brain clears.  He’s seizing.  His brain is hypoxic.  He’s dying.

I have to close my eyes because they sting.  The smell is coming in through my eyes, into my throat, so I squeeze them shut and ignore the pain.  I dig in my pack for another mask.  And another tube.  I’m about to hook them onto the other port on my tank.  I’m about to feel around frantically for the guy on the floor where he’s fallen.

And then I think about my chances if there’s two of us sucking on the same tank.

Punny Jokes from my Kids

 

Original jokes from my kids that gave us a good laugh:

 

Q: What do you call it when a bunch of military officers agree on something?

A: A general consensus!

(By L, who is nine)

 

“The Maine School of Masonry?  Is that a brick and mortar school?”

(By J, who is 14)

Homeschooling Like A Small Plane

Part of my flight to the North Woods involved a “short hop” from Boston to Maine.  Short hop translates to “small plane” in air travel parlance and traveling in one is very different from a trip in a massive transoceanic aircraft.

For one thing, when I checked in, they asked for my weight and assigned me a seat accordingly, for balance.  Secondly, the gate involved a set of stairs down to the tarmac and an escort to the side of the plane.  After tugging on the door, he waved me to clamber up and duck through a low door into the passenger compartment.

Once I resigned myself to the pilot holding her window open to stay cool, it was fun to see the towering planes around us as our flight took its place in line for take off.  She was still holding it open as we lifted into the sky.

Cruising altitude in these little nine-seaters, where I sat knee-to-knee with the other slightly pop-eyed passengers, is only about two thousand feet.  On a nice day – what a view!

The pilot turned the propellers toward our destination, and the plane surged forward.  Freakily, it also moved side-to-side as well as up-and-down.  No straight, smooth shot, this flight was subject to wind and air temperature changes that made for a bumpy, indirect ride.  Forget technology.  Judging by the way she peered over the dashboard, I think our pilot made her way north by following the silvery river north from the sea.

An hour after take-off, the co-pilot pointed out an airfield on the horizon.  A few moments later, we bumped to earth and pulled up in front of the tiniest terminal I’ve ever seen –  an eight-seat waiting room and a few bored TSA agents.  Off I went to the next phase of my journey.

It’s the movement of the little plane that makes me think of homeschooling.  If you’re coming from a traditional school setting, you’re used to a multi-engine juggernaut that launches and thunders straight toward the destination.  Homeschool?  Well, our goal is out there, but we’re following the river of our children’s changing academic needs.

That’s homeschooling.

You think, if I buy these books and this curriculum, follow these rules and do this paperwork, my child will fly right through school.  And they probably will.  Just be prepared for an indirect route. More progress one week than another.  More attention to academics one season than another.  More satisfaction with the process sometimes than others.  Up and down.  Side to side.  It’s okay.  Don’t worry.  Don’t buy more supplemental workbooks.  Don’t lay awake at night.  Propellers toward the destination, eyes on the landmarks, you’ll get them there.

Breathtaking Love

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Neither of these two women consider themselves Christian.

In fact, after growing up in a Christian home, they have eschewed the title, the practice, the faith.

But their practice of virtue is breathtaking.

One is married to a man whose father has never been kind to her.  In fact, the ugliness and inappropriate nature of his advances toward her, his lifestyle, and behavior have done anything but enrich her life.

Last week, he overdosed.

It was the smell that alerted his neighbors.  When the police and the coroners arrived on scene, he had been dead many days.  Things broke open when they moved the body.  The apartment was a mess.  A big, liquid, ghastly-smelling mess.

Her husband, stunned, went home.  With family arriving the next day to remove his belongings from the apartment, this woman called cleaning service after cleaning service.  The prices to clean up such a scene were in the multiple thousands of dollars, well beyond their means.

“My husband’s grandma has a bad heart,” she told me on the phone as she gathered supplies at the hardware store.  “I really don’t want her to walk in there tomorrow and see all that.”  So, in the middle of the night, she went alone to the apartment and cleaned up what I hope is the very worst chaos she will ever see.  Then, she went home to comfort her husband.

Relatives arrived and stayed in her house.  For a week, she fed them, handled the cremation, the burial, the memorial service.  She even filled lockets with ashes, sifting through the urn’s contents with a care that had never been extended to her by the dust’s owner.  All of this she did with kind words and not a trace of bitterness.

Her sister, learning the weight the woman carried, drove through three states in the middle of the night to stand by her side.  While the husband’s family gathered, the sisters took care of one another, anticipating needs, extending support, creating a safe, comfortable environment for the grieving family.  Then, without fanfare, the sister drove home again.

Of all the virtues, Faith, Hope, and Love reign.  But the greatest of these is a love undeserved.  A love extended to one who has no human right to expect it.  A love that creates order in a place that would turn most people’s stomachs, comforts those who grieve for one who gave no kindness.  A love that covers great distance and stands like a rock to support another.

That love is breathtaking.

In the Swirl

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I’m reeling under several simultaneous blows – the overdose death of an acquaintance,  a struggling child, news of another mass shooting.  Underlying it all, the knowledge that the tempo of violence is increasing.

Where is God when the world is a spinning mess like this? What is a powerless person to do in the face of overwhelming evil?

I was lamenting the state of affairs to God this morning, and he brought back to me a scene in which I saw the simple answer.

It was early October, and the warm southern sunshine belied the date.  With children in tow, my husband and I approached the Fun House at Fox Farm, a popular local fall attraction famous for hayrides, corn mazes, and pumpkins.

I climbed three stairs and entered the dark building at the open side where two narrow boards with railings formed the walkway.  Inside the building was a cylindrical tube like an enormous paper towel core.  Painted dark blue with sparkling stars, the tube encircled the path, rotating around me in a whirl of lights and distorted peripheral vision.

I immediately lost my balance and fell against the rail, trying to find which direction was upright as the horizon rotated from my right to my left at dizzying speed.

Only a moment passed before I realized it was the visual effect of the spinning around me that made me lose my balance.  The path under my feet was unchanging, the rail supporting and protecting me from a fall.

The second time I crashed into the rail, I closed my eyes, effectively shutting out the whirling horizon.  Without any sight to be distorted, I stood, and feeling for the handrails, blindly shuffled my way along the board path and out into the sunshine.

When my husband stumbled his way out, we had a good laugh and moved on, but I was disconcerted by the simplicity of the trick which completely disabled my brain and balance.  Maybe that’s why I remembered the incident.

And why it came back this morning.

The world and its evil are spinning and swirling with such speed and intensity my brain and heart have trouble adapting.  Evil seems to come from every direction, and we as a Body are off balance. We stumble, lamenting, making no progress toward the sunshine outside.

God is our railing. He keeps us from falling.  He guides us out of the spinning swirl if we will simply close our eyes, grab on to him, and step out blindly, trusting he has laid a path beneath our feet.

Maybe that’s what it means when the Bible says, “We walk by faith, and not by sight.” (2 Cor 5:7)

Simplicity, confidence, peace, patient endurance – words which explain how a Christian lives in these upheaved times. We have a God who will guide us through.

Grab on!

Recalculating

Have you had this experience?

You’re driving somewhere you’ve never been, but you feel secure because you have a GPS.  That little blue line on the face of your phone, the moving road map that tells you exactly where you are and how to get to your destination, gives you confidence in foreign lands.

Then, suddenly, you deviate.

(Sometimes I do this just because I feel rebellious.  That lady in the GPS is sure bossy!)

Maybe I need gas, or I looked in the mirror to talk with a child in the back and miss my turn – whatever happened, the lady belts out my error – albeit politely – with “proceed to route” or “recalculating.”

And then, the screen flashes, and by some computorial genius, the blue line reappears, rearranged to accommodate my unexpected location.

(Sometimes, I keep that rearranger in my GPS pretty busy.)

On a brilliant summer Saturday morning this year, I drove through the breathtaking mature-corn lined backroads of southern Pennsylvania.  I turned a little prematurely, and immediately, the lady in the GPS informed me of the error.  The screen blinked once, and a new blue line snaked out onto the map.  The new route used a few different roads, but the destination remained the same.

God nudged me.

And I saw how this GPS was a terrific analogy for how He interacts with our free will.

“This is the way to heaven,” He tells us at Baptism.  “We’ll go together.”

Sometimes, just because I feel rebellious, I deviate from the way.  Maybe I make a selfish decision that isn’t for the good of my family.  Maybe I choose to follow the way of the world – for years.

Or decades.

Jesus goes with me, quietly urging me to return to the route, recalculating the path that will lead me to heaven from whatever wrong turn I’ve taken.

Sometimes, with the way we exercise our free wills, he has to rearrange a lot.

But with Christ, there is always an alternate route.  It may be a little longer, maybe over roads that aren’t so smooth, but He’ll walk us over them, all the way home.

That gives me such peace, when I look at my adult children.

They’ve moved beyond the range of my control into the realm where I only have influence.  Even so, I let their decisions create a whirlwind of anxiety in my heart.  Are they abandoning Christ?  Did they even think that problem through?  Is there an end to the variety of ways they can stray from the path He put them on at their Baptisms?

Yes.

Of course.

God’s got it.

He’s with them right now, recalculating the route.

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