A few bits and pieces of the last few days: late on Thursday, when I was waiting because there were maintenance issues with the plane for my flight from ATL to MGM, I went into the women’s bathroom at the airport. It was pushing 11 at night and a woman was hard at work, mopping the floor. On my way out I stopped to talk to her, told her I travel a lot these days and I dread the bathrooms in some of the airports. The ones in Atlanta are always clean so I wanted to thank her. When I did, her eyes welled up with tears.
Yesterday, our house was crawling with folks working on the renovation. One of them, a wiry, sharp-featured young man was putting up siding. Earlier this summer, he was one of the first people to start on this project of ours. At the time, he saw Maria’s loft bed, taken apart and leaning against a wall in the garage, and asked about it. Truth is, we were never going to use it again and he explained he wanted it for his little girl, wondered if we were selling it. I bartered some help from him getting Sherod’s shop fixed up instead. It was good to see Michael again and I asked how the loft bed had worked out. He explained he’d had to cut it down some to fit it in his family’s trailer and that his daughter loves it.
This young man has a significant scar right at the base of his throat, where he had emergency neck surgery after a terrible accident that almost left him paralyzed. He also wanted me to see a picture–he’s been gathering leftover siding and discarded windows that are still good, just dated, to build a playhouse for his children. The detail of his work bespoke the love he has for his children and the pride in his craft. He told me if I knew anyone who’d like one for their kids to let him know–he’s trying to do layaway for Christmas.
All the guys working on this renovation are like that–they work very, very hard, chew tobacco, wear either Auburn or Alabama t-shirts and are tough. Their world is probably very small by lots of standards. I suspect they and I would not see eye to eye on a whole lot of issues, but another one has invited Sherod and me to visit his church and they are all curious when they see me head out to catch another flight in my clergy outfits; they always ask about my trips when I get back and stop to look at my work when I am doing some of my e-learning design work on my laptop. I don’t imagine they do much more than make it, though they are smart and capable.
A friend of mine, Marie, has commented more than once that I make Alabama look idyllic and I want to make sure I am not candy-coating what life is like. This is a state where poverty is very, very real. Where there are plenty of meth labs–probably some not too far from my house. Where even out here in the country, there are break-ins and house invasions. Mainly, it is folks eking out an existence. The thing is is, more and more, I see the beauty and goodness right in the grit and determination and the sheer will to make something out of almost nothing.
Up at four this morning, Sherod and I headed down “Old Selma Road” as the sun was climbing, to look at the Black-Eyed Susans growing wild, the steam rising from creeks along the way, and all those other sights of a new day in the country when it’s cold and clear.