Early this evening (New Year's Eve), I arrived home after letting my employees leave early for the day. I stayed on a bit because it is only after the hundreds stream home that I have time to catch up on the introverted tasks that need to be done. (If I were to change my open-door policy, I might get more of that kind of task done during the day; however, on the other hand, it might make no difference at all because many employees think that "open door" policy means "open the door.")
The kinds of things I am dealing with at work these days, as I explained in last week's Thankful Thursday post, are highly visible and highly challenging. To build a new office with various programs, managers, and employees in other states in a matter of one month is nigh onto impossible, but there is no option to fail. The work we are doing is in direct support of the US government efforts to bring peace in place of war. God has blessed me incredibly in putting me in this job and insisting that I stay in it. Now I understand perhaps why: with my many languages and experience in working in 23 countries, including the Middle East, I can bring some expertise to the process. In return, it is such a reward to be among those watching peace develop before the rest of the world sees it. (See my post on the wonder of being in the Soviet Union during the Cold War and perhaps contributing just a tiny bit to changes in that country.)
At my office (perhaps I should say offices, since I travel from one site to another routinely), I deal with the world at large, the international scene, the big cities, the places where one often ends up alone in a crowd, where interactions and relations are highly formal and formularized. (Of course, I do have close friends in the various places where I have lived and worked and a warm working relationship with most of my employees. Nonetheless, the mindset is big picture, process, strategic thinking, and impersonal implementation of programs.)
When I come home to San Ignatio, however, I enter an entirely different life. More than being in a different world, my whole life changes. I drove off the local road entering town and turned into the parking lot where we have our only set of stores, driving past the sign at the edge of town that says "Welcome to History." That sign about sums up our town; we still speak Spanish, we still attend daily Masses at the mission, we still very simply and supportively -- or at least, that is how I imagine people lived here 200 years ago.
I parked in front of the post office, which is a small wooden building with a wooden sign -- we are too small a town to merit home mail delivery. After picking up our mail, I called Donnie to see if he would like to order dinner from Pizza Factory, which is next door to the post office, while I went into the small grocery story, The Windmill Market, a few steps across the parking lot from the Pizza Factory, to pick up some dessert and small items for tomorrow. Yes, he wanted to do that, and so he called in the order.
As I stood in line at The Windmill Market about 15 minutes later, the Pizza Factory manager, one cucumber in hand, jumped into line in front of me. "Hi, Steve," I said, yielding room to him.
"Hey, Beth," he said, "I had to run in to get a cucumber for your salad! I'll see you over there in a few minutes. Your pizza is almost done."
After I put the groceries into the car, I started down the wooden sidewalk that connects all the wooden buildings that make up our tiny shopping complex. (I purposely do not call it the town center because the town center is the Old Mission; even the fire station and city hall, such as it is, are located across from the mission -- all of it walking distance from The Windmill, or perhaps I should say that The Windmill and everything else in town, including my house, is walking distance from the mission.) Rolling down the sidewalk on a scooter was a member of the city council.
"Hi, Beth," she called to get my attention. I walked over to hug her, and we got talking about her latest plan for feral cat rescue, an interest we share. We also both are members of Old Mission church; just about everyone in town is, and Fr. Ed is as much the town's leader as is the mayor, serving as chaplain for the fire department (there is no police department -- we are so blessed as a town not to need a police force) and acquainted, it seems, with every person in town.
After finishing the conversation with the city councilwoman, I finally popped into Pizza Factory to pick up my now-ready pizza. The owner was there along with four employees.
"Hi, Beth," the owner called out.
"Happy New Year," I responded. Elizabeth, the daughter of a woman who co-teaches the First Year Confirmation catechism class at Old Mission church with me, smiled. The other two, who were in the back room and whom I know from birthday parties held at Pizza Factory and many other visits there. (Pizza Factory is the only pizza shop in town and the closest thing we have to fast food -- nope, we have no McDonald's, Burger King, or Wendy's, etc.) As I paid for the food, I handed four $5 bills to Steve, one for each of the employees for New Year's. It is a very small amount, but it goes further here than in some other places. My special tip for the Pizza Factory employees is now a New Year's tradition, and for all of us, it is the thought that counts.
The Windmill is on the south edge of time, and my house is on the north side of town. From The Windmill to my house is a one-minute drive and a ten-minute walk. The one minute, though, is wondrous this time of year. The main street lights are decked out with Christmas wreaths that look like halos at night and pictures of saints. (This year they went up in October because City Hall is being renovated and there was no place to store them. City Hall, which is a two-room building, is still being renovated, and so the decorations may stay up for some time yet. That is okay; they are part of what contributes to the feeling of holiness in this town. (My retarded son, Doah, when he first set foot in town after God clearly led me here, stopped, took assessment, and pronounced, "God here!")
As I was carrying the pizza into the house five minutes later, our next-door neighbor showed up with some apples. I thanked and hugged her. She departed as quickly as she had arrived, leaving Donnie and me to our dinner.
I love this town! I am overwhelmingly thankful to God on this Thursday for putting me here.
More information about the Thankful Thursday meme can be found at the website of Grace Alone.