I have been thinking a lot about work recently. A few weeks ago, I got up early and started my usual Monday morning breakfast routine: 6:20 am get up and get dressed, make sure the coffee is going and the boiled eggs are on, figure out the napkins and towels, help Patty with toast, keeping workspaces clean, etc. Around 7:45, I finally meandered out to the front room where I helped myself to a much needed mug of coffee. I stood peacefully stirring creamer into my coffee when I was pretty much verbally attacked by a woman sitting near me.
“Don’t you work here!?” she said with a scowl.
Now, I don’t really like to say that I “work” at Holy Family very often. The word and its meaning today simply does not express the relationship that I have with this house. I would rather say, “I live at Holy Family,” or “I belong at Holy Family.”
She didn’t give me time to respond, she went right into it. “Why can’t you do the dishes? You’re the one who works here. You get paid to be here!”
It took me a minute to realize that this woman must have just been asked if she would like to volunteer to do the dishes. Pat had been asking people but hadn’t found a volunteer yet this morning.
Never mind that my hands were still wet from rinsing dishes, never mind that I had been up since 6:20 preparing the woman’s breakfast. I was suddenly a layabout that expected other people to do my work for me. But is it my work?
I often have a hard time responding in situations like this. I tried to say to her as calmly as possible, “I do not get paid to work here. This is my home. I live here.” I admit that I failed. She was still angry, and I wandered off to do some more dishes.
We always say that Holy Family is our home. We have to reaffirm and reaffirm, because when have you ever heard of a home where around 100 different people have keys to the back door?
True, most people have to pay to live in their home today. But I like to think of myself as a pioneer: out on the prairie, people didn’t pay to live in their homes. They worked to live in their homes. All of their work centered on the home, keeping it livable and viable. That is what I do, I work at Holy Family to keep it livable and viable. I am not in charge of making sure that every dish gets washed, and I am humble enough to admit I need help in this endeavor. Every day I need help.
I should have apologized to the woman and told her that she was not expected to do the dishes. She was a guest in my home and she need not worry about those things unless she chose to. I should have sat down and asked for her name and welcomed her to my home. I can understand why she was confused and upset. But my own unsettled feelings got the better of me.
Everyone works in their home and everyone relaxes. Sometimes it feels like I do these normal things at Holy Family, but I do them under a microscope. Am I working enough? Am I relaxing enough? Who knows? All I know is that I am called to be here, to “hold down the fort.” A homesteader with a dirty house, a raggedy garden and unkempt animals didn’t have any less right to live on his or her homestead. Let’s just let God be the judge. It is easier that way.