"You never know where a blessing can come from."
On our 2nd full work day at the Oaks, there was a choice of three projects: to finish painting one of the dorm houses, to paint picnic tables or to organize the house that serves as a clothes closet for the mission.
Okay, it's not really a whole house, more like a large shed. And "organize" might be too big a word for unpacking, sorting, and sizing about a kazillion pairs of underpants and socks. When it comes to "organizing" however, my Sweetie considers himself a world champion. I would say that I run a pretty close second but some of you may question the veracity of that statement because of the stories you've read about my propensity for clutter. While the rest of the Good Goers team grabbed paint brushes, Sweetie and I sequestered ourselves across the campus. The closet is full of donated items from bedding, to jackets, to shoes, to towels, to jeans and backpacks. And did I mention underpants?
I didn't know that when you return something to Walmart it is sent to a central Return Center instead of being put back on the shelf. Maybe there is a plan to how the returned items are packed up and sent out to places like the Oaks, but it seemed pretty willy nilly to me - as in dumped in a box and mailed. When we walked into the room where we would be working, we couldn't see anything but mangled cardboard boxes and dead spiders on the floor. Other teams had worked here so there was a basic layout as to where things should go, but in my humble pot-calling-the kettle-black opinion it looked like an underwear bomb had been detonated. After two days, organized boxes overflowed with neatly folded underpants, but the shelves still seemed dwarfed by the contents.
There is really no way to start a project like this, other than just dig in. Sweetie went first. It took me a little longer to get up my nerve to open the first box. After awhile we both got a rhythm going and we worked non-stop til lunchtime, then returned and kept going til dinnertime. It wasn't what you'd call "hard" work, but steady. We talked a little, but mainly just shared the time together in convivial silence.
In the quiet I became aware of two things. Blessings, really. As I stood knee deep in undies, I realized I've never once had to stop and wonder where my next pair of underpants might come from. I thought of the kids who live at this mission (or homeless shelter, or ghetto, or you-fill-in-the-blank) who sometimes lack the very basics. Food and shelter would undoubtedly rank first on the scale of basic necessities, but covering one's body, which is a way of keeping it holy, is right up near the top. I would think that for children who have been abused clothing would be a kind of protective armor. I've been blessed in my life to have not only have clean underwear when I needed it, but a dresser drawer to store it in. Seems weird to say, but I now understand that blessings don't have to be huge miracles. They come in all sizes and colors and sometimes have Superman on the front. Blessings don't always have to come from wealthy donors or over-zealous missionaries. They can be as simple as a pair of panties neatly folded by loving hands.
I also became aware of the fact that although Sweetie and I have been together for close to seven years and sometimes feel like we've been to hell and back, this might have been the first time we worked side-by-side with a common goal. In the past our habit has been to divide and conquer. I felt blessed to spend this quiet time with the man I love.
There were a couple other times during the week that I saw Sweetie as if with new eyes. One night at dinner, I listened to him talk to a young girl and watched as she opened up to him. Another night, during arts & crafts time, I watched Sweetie share a coloring book with one of the kids. Neither of us could even remember the last time we colored. As a light-hearted banter took place about whether or not it is better to color inside the lines or out, I felt our inner children settle into the moment. Perhaps my favorite moment was when Sweetie, aka Grandpa, let a young girl decorate his face with stick-on jewels. It's hard to resist a man all decked out in sapphires.
Gratitude is that place in the heart from which blessings flow.