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.