A Thankful Heart

I sit here on Thanksgiving Day with my fake fireplace crackling on the flat screen and classical music playing. The house smells of bacon, Pumpkin pie, and a mulled cider candle. It will soon smell of homemade bread, stuffed pork chops (we’re not big on turkey around here) and then the roasted brussels sprouts . . . well, maybe the brussels sprouts smell will arrive later, if you get my drift. There are cleared and vacuumed sections of floor that I haven’t seen in awhile and the living room looks bigger! Inviting people over is always a great incentive to get ‘er done, isn’t it?

All is well in the world as we await the arrival of our oldest and his wife to spend the day over-eating and watching TV with the old folks. The other 2 sons are entertaining in-laws at their respective homes, but I hope we’ll be able to drop by later just to see the smiling faces we miss so much around here. And I need one of those great squeezes I get from my 3 year old grandson, Bjorn – that will make my day. These are the moments when it’s so easy to say ‘Thank you’ for the life we live. I’m so grateful for everything – the tangible as well as the intangible.

I’m busy putting my calendars together. I have 200 done so far and many need to be mailed. I took my vacation this week to get multiple tasks done before the Post Office gets buried in packages for Christmas. Don’t get me wrong – ‘packages’ is just another way to say ‘job security’ in my world, but I need to rest and take a deep breath before I head back there, and part of the rest is knowing I have crossed several things off my own list while I attend to the needs of others.

Our sons have always been thankful people and I am convinced that part of that stems from not having too much stuff when growing up. We never lavished them with gifts at Christmas, just one nice thing that they really wanted and then some small stuff for fun. We did make and deliver baked goods to neighbors and paid attention to others more than ourselves because we already possessed what is the greatest Gift; The Love of God. A God who met our every need (not want) and blessed us with good health and a family with 2 parents who loved each other. A hard working father (often working 2 jobs) and a stay at home mother.
We started out in a mobile home, which is a fancy word for trailer, and all 3 sons were born during those first 10 years of marriage. Also, during those years, I added a morning paper route for 4 1/2 years that allowed me to earn some income while the boys and husband were all snug asleep in their beds. It was this paper route that allowed us to meet people like the late Leonard Muse, former Virginia senator to whom I delivered the morning paper, and this is how that came about.

From time to time, the paper would increase their rates, but not tell the carrier until it was a done deal, and in my case,  not until after I had billed my customers for the quarter. Even though I asked management if they were increasing the rates, they assured me they weren’t, so I went ahead and wrote out all the bills and delivered them with the papers. Two days later, I was given notice of the retro-active price increase. With tongue pressed deeply into my cheek, I wrote a follow-up notice to my customers that went something like this: “In keeping with it’s policy to make certain all carriers are kept up to date with any price increases, the R****** T****  informed me today that, as of  3 weeks ago, the rates will increase from . . . ”

A few days later, a letter arrived in my mail box that had a return address of “The Oaks” Fincastle, VA. Oh – oh. I opened it and drew out some of the finest vellum paper I’d seen in a long time. The letterhead had Leonard Muse at the top, and it was type written like it had been dictated to a secretary and come from a lawyer’s office, which it had, I later found out. My heart sank, what have I done now?

It began: I am one of your newspaper customers and recently received your “Notice of Rate Increase” attached to my morning paper. I’m not certain who composed this notice, it sounds as though it was written by a woman, but I wish to inform you that that was one of the funniest things I have read in a long time. I was wondering if you and your family would be willing to join me for lunch some Sunday afternoon here at my home. I would be delighted to meet you. My caretaker, Peggy will call you and make arrangements. I am sincerely, Leonard Muse (in bold hand).

Needless to say, I went from total blood drained from my head to giddy relief in 10 seconds flat. I also noticed that this was more of an ‘offer you can’t refuse’ type of invite, but I’ve always felt that every opportunity was from the Lord and you never know who He will bring across your path in this lifetime and for what reason. Go and be the best representation for Christ that you can possibly be! We went to ‘The Oaks’ for Sunday afternoon lunch and dined in the stately antebellum mansion, staring at the hand painted mural on the wall. Mr. Muse was a charming host and brought out a basket of toys for the boys to play with and constantly complimented us on how well behaved they were.

That was the first of many visits, and we, in turn, invited him to dine with us in our humble trailer. I scrubbed and cleaned everything from top to bottom and made my best menu. He and Peggy arrived, he sat next to the washing machine that was in the kitchen and passed the fried chicken, poured milk for the boys, and we laughed and talked the night away. He was a very gracious man.

After the youngest arrived, we were able to build our current home on the same spot that our trailer sat, using the well and septic, after adding a couple lines to the latter. It took 6 months to finish the house and once we settled in, we decided to have an open house. We invited all our neighbors, family . . . and Mr. Muse.

He was the first person to arrive, (with Peggy), and she confided to us that he was so excited to get here, he just had to be first. As the neighbors poured in I heard whispers, “Isn’t that Leonard Muse?”
He sat at the dining room table like a king in all his glory receiving guests and people would sit with him for a time and hear his many stories. It was a beautiful day all around.

Shortly after that, he moved downtown to the Jefferson motel as his residence where he was closer to his law office. We would visit him there from time to time and always enjoyed his company. He lived to be 99, I believe. The road in front of his place in Fincastle is named after him. I don’t know who lives at the Oaks now, but they sold much of the land for development, for this is how the world turns.
We will always remember his gracious nature and his kindness to not think himself above sitting next to the washing machine and pouring milk for the boys. We are thankful for these people whose paths cross ours in life and trust that we touched his heart as he touched ours.

 

Riches

We’re all rich. Just the fact that you are reading this digital blog verses my having to mimeograph (that will date some of us, eh?) copies and mail them to you, merits the title of ‘rich’. Once in a while we need reminders of how rich we are, and mine was yesterday evening.
As I came back from my route, a guy sitting in a pick up in the post office parking lot waved and smiled. I waved back – had no clue who he was.
When I came back out after putting all my stuff away, he was still there, waving as I left for home. I waved back – still no clue who he was. . . so I wrote down his plate number.
I called the other woman carrier who was still out to have her ‘watch out’ for him when she came in since it would likely be dark, but she didn’t answer.
Now I’m concerned. I turned around, pulled up next to him, window to window and had a conversation with him about who he was and why he was ‘hanging out’ on PO property. I found out he was living in his pick up, doing some trail hiking, and ‘not bothering anyone’. He smiled the whole time he talked and seemed genuinely happy – not the kind of sleezy smile of a charmer who hopes you’ll believe him. I checked his story via sources I won’t reveal here, and then, my feelings moved on to Christian charity. (Also known as love.)
I know I was not rude to him, just matter of fact, checking you out type of behavior, but I felt compelled to stop and pick up a gift card and go back and introduce myself, tell him to have a meal on me. But he was gone. I recalled the other carriers talking about the guy in the pick up that was always in a certain place so I drove on and looked there – to no avail. Guess I scared him off.
I couldn’t help but feel that I had missed an opportunity and it bugged me. I called Dane and asked him to stop and look for him on his way home and give him a gift card. (I gave him his plate number) – but he couldn’t find him. Well, it wasn’t meant to be.
I’ve become more and more aware of missed opportunities in my old age and how many needy people there are. Not needy in the sense of money, we’re all convinced we need more of that, but needy in the sense of feeling alone and lost in a world of fearful, self-absorbed people who don’t want to hear your story. People who can’t be bothered to listen. People who pass you by without a glance.
In my work, I have the rare privilege of having an invisible contact with the 650 ‘customers’ I deliver to. I know when their birthdays come around, what their dogs names are and when their shots are due. I know where they go to church, I know who they vote for and when they’ve bought a new car. There just isn’t much I can’t tell about folks from their mail – but it’s all kept private, mind you, and it gives me the opportunity to pray for them all. There isn’t much else to do when you pass their houses each day and I can’t help but feel that this has much more value than sitting home, doing my nails and vacuuming. I smile at these people, laugh with them, cry with them, and let them know in some way that God cares about them.
Do I love my job? Not necessarily. I am thankful for it and glad that the Lord has seen fit to use me where He has placed me. It’s hard work and I’m not getting any younger, but the people, for the most part, are wonderful and I enjoy serving them in some small way everyday.
Am I rich? You betcha’! I have a job, a good man to come home to everyday, kids and grandkids to enjoy, and I know Who is control. All my needs are met and I could not ask for more. AND, I don’t have to live in my truck . . . God is good – all the time.