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Thursday, January 26, 2012

The Company Picnic, We're All Just People

Yesterday we went to a company picnic and I am never surprised at these events. I guess when I was younger and not as comfortable with myself I didn't see things as clearly and I was so insecure with myself  I didn't see the fidgeting of  other people and therefore missed out on having a good time myself. But as I looked around at a very gracious group of people who had provided a beautiful spread for me and my family, and spared no expense, I also saw men who were empty and alone, and very much out of their element. We drive up kids talkin ninety to nothin, the ole' 79  bronco whips in and  parks next to the Audi's and the Infinities and Honda Elements. As the kids skipped to the covered area and Kenny and I are chatting, walking, holding hands, my Dad smiling as he spots "princess" (as he calls Emma), I see all eyes are on us. The third generation owner, born a rich man, of the company was there alone, his wife didn't even attend with him. The other executive was also alone, the other supervisors also came alone. Emma said that was common, she had yet to see any of them attend. As I looked around and saw these men out of their suits and out of their "element" I thought God have we let what we do so define us, that when we get out of those clothes we don't even know how to act. Is our home life so empty and sad that all we have is what we do from 8-5? When we all get together, if we have nothing to sell each other, if we are on the same level, do we not have anything to say to each other? Can we just share an afternoon and a meal together? Does it always have to go back to, what is your profession, where do you live? All those things are just fronts, covers, a protection so no one gets too close. As I observed the kids it didn't take them but about 30 seconds to make friends and they were eating, playing and laughing. No talk of grades or where they live, just fun and playing. I thought had we showed up at this event with the same attitude I wonder what a difference it would make. You see, had this been 3 years ago, we would have pulled up in the Denali and even with the best of intentions, we wouldn't have acted any different but they would have treated us different. But you see we had nothing to lose, we were thrilled to be served a wonderful meal and have an evening of free entertaining.  So we were intent on enjoying the day, it was a beautiful sunny day we hadn't been out to eat in I don't know how long, and the park was amazing so nothing could spoil our time. Number of yrs ago I am sure one of us would have found something to complain about  or one would not have even wanted to go. It is funny how things can change so quickly, and I must say, in our case, for the better. We would head out to a restaurant and we could not even decide on a place to eat! Too many choices! If you cant decide where to eat out of 20 restaurants, you aren't very hungry! The kids were not evil kids, they were just given too many choices, and isn't that just like adults as well? Don't we all take things for granted.?  Kenny and I would text for 30 mins deciding where to meet for lunch everyday. I think it is just human nature. So BY God we were excited and we were bent on having a good time. And when you don't have cable, peoples lives are alotummmmmming, and giving our thanks to the chef, and it wasn't very long and the atmosphere had turned to one of calm and ease, we were sharing stories and enjoying the beauty of the day. We moved to the fun, to an open field, and continued with games, and even the executives joined in, and they were having fun! Without alcohol, and without obscenities and making  fools of ourselves.  Emma said the owner made the statement we need to have an employee Olympics, it was so good to get out of the office and relax and have good time without the stress of work. Little did they know, we were having to decide whether or not to sell the Bronco or the Cadillac. My Dad had given us an old Cadillac that was in great shape and mechanically he had gone through every inch of that car, so it was such a difficult thing to even think of selling it. And I knew it would insult him as well.  He had put alot of money and time in that car and we were so grateful but life had dictated that either the Bronco or the Cadillac be sold, or we would not be able to continue to live. So we decided to put both on craigslist and leave it up to God which one sold.  I didn't want to sell either, but of course my heart would have been broke if the Bronco went. But honestly, that beast was killing us on gas and the car was economically what we needed. We were running both of them on fumes. I would get a call from the school and I could feel the vessels in my head tighten because I knew if I made an extra trip to the school we might not have enough gas to last til the end of the week.  As a parent you want to be involved in your kids school, and so often we bad mouth parents who are not involved and I have to think how often it may have been that they just did not have the funds to do it, as was my case. I just hated it. I had always been involved, I had always volunteered and been available when people needed me, and now I couldn't do anything. I could barely send in a snack. It made me feel worthless and impotent. Like less of a parent, like less of contributor, and it honestly made me feel like less of a child of God, I felt abandoned, I felt alone, I felt angry and had many questions running thru my mind. Why would you give us a car, only to take it from us?  Can't we at least have the necessities, gas, food, lodging.  Nothing outrageous, just the things we need to survive. We had switched school districts so were having to drive the kids to school, so the Cadillac had been such a blessing, we were getting twice the gas mileage we were on the Bronco. It just made no logical sense. God why would it come to this. We had always been givers and now we had been given something and it was being taken away. The kids were even shaken at the thought of selling either one of them. They had been there, as well, everytime we had broken down, or we didn't have the gas to pick them up, or to take them to a birthday party, so their fears were certainly merited.  The days were getting closer and closer to the urgency of our need and still nothing on the Bronco or the Cadillac.  Well, Miss Betty's son Drew came over to check on things and fell in love with both the Bronco and the Cadillac, he just didn't have the means to buy them both. So on the spot he bought the Cadillac. As he drove off, I thought how am I going to keep gas in that beast of a truck, the one I really didn't want to sell anyway.  I couldn't have it both ways, but I guess I just wanted to complain.  My entire conversation was me, me, me! How will I pay the insurance, how will I fix it when it breaks, we have no job, no promise of a job, we have even been promised a job and that had been taken away, so how will we even keep the Bronco on the road.  Our need was met at the moment, but what about tomorrow, or the next, or even next month, when the insurance is due.  I know I sound like a crazy lady, but, I had become consumed with fear, living had made me fearful of everything, that is until I would have a "moment" as I would call them.  A moment when, He would meet me, or touch me, whisper encouragement to me, or at times chastise me.  And today at this picnic as I saw my children interact with strangers, asking please for their food and saying thank you, glancing over at Kenny and seeing him talking to someone else, yet knowing he is aware of where I am at all times, I realized how extraordinary our lives really were, even though they were also very, very hard.  We had never missed a day of school, or church, because we didn't have gas, we never drove without insurance, we've never been hungry, life is really about the people, not the things.  Yes, that car was nice, and I enjoyed having it, but, that car was a means used to provide a need in our lives.  And life went on the moment that car drove off.  Life could have went on bitter and angry and resentful, if I would have allowed it, but that is not the nature of who God is, He is concerned with people, and relationships, and gatherings and moments in time, memories, not the means by how we get there.  That is how WE have defined each other.  That is how we prejudice ourselves against someone, even before we've given them a chance.  And on the other end of that, when I drove a $60,000.00 vehicle, and we were in the church, even though we paid for it, I would find myself parking around back, because I knew the church "folks" would criticize me.  So I think we have to come to a place that whether we have a $1,000 car or $100,000 car, we value people over things and  don't allow the things to keep us isolated from people.  And being poor, so often, I am sure, keeps people isolated.  You see, the Dyers'  had something far greater than money to bring to that picnic, it was a genuine appreciation for a beautiful day of picining, with great food, playing games and spending time with each other making new friends.