Meditating on Job Assignments and Marriage at the Wood Ministry

May 14, 2009



The Friendly Neighbors left town to go on a scenic train ride to the Rockies. My wife wants to go on a scenic train ride across Canada, something we may do one of these days if we live long enough.

I put the neighbors’ trash out for them and went wood splitting without them. I told the other splitters, “The Friendly Neighbor told me to watch you carefully so you work productively and safely, but I know you will do whatever you want and pay no attention to me, so you will have to deal with him when he returns next week.” They did fine. Mostly.

Although they have a volunteer team leader, they mostly work in polite, happy anarchy, each person doing the job he is best suited for and without needing to be told what to do by the non-bossy team leader. They are all older than I am. It is no surprise to me that they are more skillful in using tools such as chainsaws and splitters, or that they know more about the different kinds of wood or how to place the “rounds” of wood under the splitter blade so they split most quickly and efficiently. Although they are unpaid and give the wood away instead of selling it, they work with furious efficiency that would do a lumber company proud.

However, as they are older and even though they are more knowledgeable than I am, and even though they are all stronger than I am, they all have older bodies that are breaking down. Joints are wearing down; knees, hips, and shoulders need to be replaced; one or another of the participants will miss a few sessions because of an operation or to recover from a strain or sprain.

As we worked yesterday, each person worked at a job without being told what to do. However, each person kept working at it too long and made himself sore with repetition at the same job, and moaned about it at quitting time. Each person should have changed tasks in the middle of the session, but everyone was too polite to ask someone to switch with them.

Next week I will diffidently suggest to everyone that they take turns at different jobs so they do not make their joints and and muscles more sore than they need to be. Or maybe, I will suggest it to the Friendly Neighbor and he can suggest it to them. There are times when polite people are a little too polite and considerate.



After we got to the church for coffee and cookies, we talked about marriage. After everyone else had left, J, one of the volunteers, told me about a friend of his. “I went to all three of his weddings,” he said.”My friend is a very free spirit, very humorous and spontaneous. He married a woman for his second marriage who was very rigid and predictable. Neither would change a bit to suit the other; so it was no surprise to me that the marriage did not last very long.”

The church secretary, a very pleasant woman probably in her seventies, came out to refill the coffee container and to put out more cookies. She listened to this story and quietly said, “I have been married for 50 years. My husband never listens to me and never wants input from me.” She spoke in a restrained, discreet way, conveying patient resignation and she displayed little or no rancor as she spoke.

“I have often been this close to leaving him,” she said, holding up two fingers to show a short distance between them. “However, as the minister said in one of his sermons recently, ‘marriage is a commitment.’ It is part of my faith and my values to honor that commitment.”

She then said, “I better get back to work. I don’t usually spend this much time out here talking.” She quietly returned to her office.

J looked at me. “That is a very sad story,” he said. I did not ask him how many times he had been married or for how long.

When I got home I kissed my wife and told her I loved her. There is a time to be a sentimental old fool. Also, we got through the entire day without fighting. We have good days and bad days. I think this is true of every married couple. We should probably take that train ride sooner rather than later.


8 Responses to “Meditating on Job Assignments and Marriage at the Wood Ministry”

  1. tammie Says:

    i enjoyed reading your observations.

    i hope you can take that train ride together soon.

  2. modestypress Says:

    Hi Tammie,

    Thanks for dropping in to my blog. I will persevere to get the train on the tracks.

  3. Pete Says:

    I highly recommend the train ride, not only for the ioncredible beauty of the Canadian rockies, but for the reason you you so eloquently stated in your post. That was a very touching post, you “Sentimental old fool!” I think you need a passport to get into Canada these days.

  4. modestypress Says:

    Hi Pete,

    I just sent you a great picture of my wife. The Friendly Neighbors get back next week and we will debrief them on their train trip, and then talk about our plans.

    Anne Elise (Random Granddaughter) created a birthday card for my brother in Maine. She sealed it so nobody has seen it. I am sending it to him sight unseen and warned him it may be shocking or offensive.

  5. David Says:

    Sentimental old fools stay married longer, I notice.

    You’d love the train trip through the Rockies.

  6. Pete Says:

    So what did you say to your wife to make her smile like that???

  7. modestypress Says:

    The Friendly Neighbors are back and said they had a wonderful time riding the train. It ended up in Montan, actually.

    However, their chipmunks are out of control. They counted 15 on their property. The chipmunks are eating all their peas. They bought some rat traps and the chipmunks are not long for this world.

    Pete is referring to a wonderful picture of my wife laughing enthusiastically I sent him in an email. The picture was taken at the farmer’s market. Pete, I wasn’t there, so I didn’t say anything to make her laugh and I don’t know what provoked the mirth.

  8. woo Says:

    Your wife is spilling over with fun and good humour in the photo, Mr Random. I cannot help but feel that you may have a large part in the reason for that – whether you were there at the time the photo was taken or not.

    My Grandmother used to say that we all get the face we deserve as we get older. This is certainly true 🙂

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