Sunday, June 10, 2012

A Blog From the Beach

My title is misleading.  I’m actually not writing this at the beach.  But I did just return from the beach and I spent a lot of time in the water putting thoughts together about this blog, so I think it fits.    

            Now that I live within a day’s drive of the Gulf Coast, I wanted to see the sea.  I love the ocean. I’ve never gotten to be near it or in it or by it nearly as much as I’d like, but that doesn’t change my love of it.  Walks along the shore, watching the waves unceasing assault on the sand, added the words endless and vast to my vocabulary.  So what I’m really trying to say is, “I love the beach!”

            After our first full day seaside, we made our way to a Large Themed Chain Restaurant.  It was overpriced, crowded and loud, but hey, we were on vacation, so why not?  As we were shown to our table, the hostess, Catalina, introduced herself and asked if we had been to this Large Themed Chain Restaurant before.  We replied yes because we’d been to the one in the Mall of America – the mother ship of all things Large, Themed, and Chain.  Catalina informed us, I’m sure on management’s strict orders, that this version in this particular town was the best, so welcome.  She was nice, young and had a lilting accent from a country I couldn’t quite identify. 

            Catalina went on to other customers. We had a good meal, took pictures, and then made our way back to the hotel.  The next morning, a little worse for wear, we started again for the ocean.  On our way out we passed a group of housekeeping staff going through their morning duties.  I try especially hard to be polite and pleasant to housekeeping.  I’ve never been a paid housekeeper but I play one at home, and I know that it can be a really crappy job.  I say that based on cleaning up after my own family.  I can’t imagine cleaning up after strangers.  One member of housekeeping looked familiar.  Glancing at her nametag it read Catalina; the same Catalina from the night before.    

            I always feel somewhat apologetic to the housekeeping staff of whatever hotel I stay in.  I know theirs is an underpaid and unrewarding job.  Plus I know that in spite of my best efforts to keep us neat and organized, our stuff spreads across a hotel room like toxic waste.  I realize we’re not as bad as drunken rockers on a destruction binge, but still.  Yet these two images of Catalina, hostess and housekeeper, stayed with me the rest of the day.  I wondered about her story.  Did she only have to work two jobs to make ends meet?  Or was there a third one thrown into the mix?  Stereotypical scenarios drifted through my mind.  Was she a single mother?  An undocumented worker?  Did she have family in another country dependent on the money she was earning?  Was she also a student?  Paying for college along with rent? 

            That day as I took a break from my body surfing, bobbing along on the waves, I thought about Catalina and all the other people who do the menial jobs of this world.  They make it possible for people like me to eat out and make trips to the beach and not make the beds in a motel room, and drift along in the waves updating my bucket list – see addendum.  Then my thoughts wandered, as they often do when I’m floating (on water, I don’t just float; although that would be cool.)  Thinking about Catalina’s work made me consider my own work.  I realize as a pastor many people think I really only work one hour a week.  I’d like to believe that’s just an overused stereotype, but I know that it’s true more often than not.  But ministry was not my first job.  In fact I started a mental list of all the jobs I’ve had over the course of my life, and I was surprised at their number.    

I’ve been a babysitter, ice cream scooper (This was my first “real” job outside of babysitting and the first one I was fired from.  A sad and strange irony considering my deep and abiding love for all things ice cream), hostess at a large chain restaurant as well as table busser and stocker of the food bar, waitress, office temp, receptionist,  filer of millions of files, survey taker, college radio DJ – don’t laugh, I got a work/study scholarship for this – daycare worker, daycare provider, assistant to a publicist, gopher for a publicist, errand runner for wife of CEO of company where I was assistant to the publicist, publicist, library assistant, professor’s assistant, a filer of even more files, babysitter and nanny extraordinaire, teacher and now preacher. 

            I know that in small ways and large, all of those jobs created the path to where I am now.  It was an odd and twisting path, but a path nonetheless.  I hope that for Catalina, and for so many others, that her jobs will serve as a path as well.  Thanks Catalina for being nice to us at a restaurant and for making our beds and vacuuming the sand we tried hard not to track in, and for cleaning that same sand out of the bottom of the tub.  It was good to be back at the beach.

The following is a brief excerpt from my newly updated bucket list.  There is no order or ranking of preference.

            Learn to surf
            See London, Paris, Rome, Dublin and pretty much any other place in Europe
            Take a walking tour either through Ireland or Spain or both
Write my novel – note I didn’t say publish or find a literary agent or go on a book tour, just write the damn thing and stop worrying about whether it’s good enough.  Just write it!
Get my doctorate of ministry, otherwise known as a D.Min.
Have six-pack abs – hey I know it’s shallow, but it’s my bucket list!
Finally be comfortable in my own skin, six-pack or not, and not worry about the expectations of others.

Getting comfortable in my own skin

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