Lent Days 24 & 26-29: The Size of Solidarity

The highlight of the week for L. and I was doing laundry.  We visited and helped out at one of those places where homeless people can come and take a shower and get their clothes washed.

“We aren’t the only game in town,” the director told me.  There were charts taped to the wall with a catalog of services offered in the area — other shower places, where to find clothes, meals, shelters, everything.

It was good we were not the only ones at this, because the place was small: Two showers, three washers, three dryers.  One small combination waiting-and-laundry area, then the private bathrooms in the back, a storage closet, and that’s about it.  In the space of a morning, perhaps a dozen people came through.

By the end of the morning I was convinced we were exactly the right size.   There were enough people that if you wanted to mind your own business you could, but few enough people that there was time and closeness for conversation if you wanted that.

A lady told me the story about when she was five years old and she wanted to run away, because she was mad at her father for not letting her join the Brownies.  She asked her mother to come along, since she’d need someone to cook.  Her mother agreed. They slipped off early on a Saturday morning, but then out in the yard her mother remembered she had a phone call to make before they left.

“Don’t go back in there! Daddy will be up!  He’ll see us!”

“No, I’m sorry. This is an important phone call.  I have to go back in.”

“Who do you have to call who’s so important it can’t wait?”

“Santa Claus.”

“What?! Santa Claus?”

“That’s right.  I have to tell him not to stop at our house anymore, since you won’t be there.”

“Oh.”

“And the Easter Bunny.  I need to call the Easter Bunny, too.”

Having considered the repercussions, the little girl decided maybe they should stay for now.

If we had more space and more showers and more rooms, it would turn into an assembly line.  There’d be separated stations for each step of the process.  The waiting area would be larger, and washing and drying would be in another room.  Maybe folding in yet another room.  You’d barely get to know anyone.

It’s easy to be friends with a hundred or even five hundred people, but it’s impossible to make friends except one at a time.  You would miss that story.

File:Illustrated front cover from The Queenslander December 15 1937 (7960424470).jpg

 By State Library of Queensland, Australia [No restrictions], via Wikimedia Commons

Lent Day 7: Evangelizing Key Chains

I have a guest membership at the local Baptist mega-church’s gym.  Before you get scandalized, a “guest” membership means you are not a member of the church.  It lets you use the gym, walking track, and exercise classes, and lets your child attend certain activities that require a gym membership.  It costs $10 the first year and $5 thereafter.

The extra $5 the first year is because you receive a bar code membership tag to put on your key chain, which you check in with when you arrive.  The YMCA has a similar system.  So do grocery stories: You use the loyalty-program membership card to earn rewards either for yourself or the school of your choice, depending on the grocery store.

Last week when I handed over my keys to the oil change guys, there flashed Local Mega Baptist Church.

My gym membership card doesn’t specify what kind of member I am — I suppose if I became a proper member of the congregation, I’d keep my card and just upgrade my status.  (I won’t though — not going to forsake my birthright for unlimited access to the weight room.)

Today when I stopped at the downtown specialty grocery store after dropping off the 5th grader at St. Urban’s, I again handed over my keys in order get my store loyalty-points.  Once again: LM Baptist.

I feel a little bad about this, because sometime I am impatient and cranky at the oil change place.  Sometimes I am not the picture of extroverted cheerfulness at the grocery store.   It makes the Baptists look bad.  I’m sorry, Baptists.  Thank you for letting me use your gym anyway.

File:Ehrenstetten - Ölbergkapelle6.jpg  - Small, picturesque chapel among the hills of vinyards in either southwestern Germany or northeastern France, depending on which unreliable image-description you believe.

Photo: By Taxiarchos228 (Own work) [FAL], via Wikimedia Commons.  I don’t know if I belong to this church or not.  I was unable to easily get hold of the particulars.  But I might.  I belong to this giant mega church with all these locations spread around the world, nearly every one of them containing people as cranky as I am.