Archive for February, 2012

A Lesson Well Learned

Image       I can’t believe I’ve only made it through 3 towns in the last 5 months.  I’d say it’s because I’ve been having a great time, but the truth is I’ve been hard at work.  I got into Kennewick Washington in October.  Kennewick is the more popular of the tri-cities in this area.  I quickly found a place to stay and discovered they had a fabulous wine tour which I took.  Kennewick was a lovely town filled with delightful people, but I didn’t stay long as Oregon was calling to me. 

My next stop was Umatilla Oregon.  I set up camp at the Marina RV Park and soon discovered that my funds were running low again.  I had enough money to stay at the RV park for 2 days.  I decided not to chance it and only stayed one.  I was bummed that I couldn’t check out the town better than I did, but it was my own fault. 

I pushed on to Boardman though it seemed to take an eternity to get there.  I think my mood was so down because of my stupidity with my money.  Note to self – always have enough money to live for at least a month.  

As I rode up this one street I noticed a church.  Feeling so low I decided to check it out in hopes that I could have a little quiet praying time.  To my surprise, me being Catholic, it was a Catholic church.  I entered this solemn looking building and instantly felt the presence of God.  I knew instantly that God and maybe a few angels had been guiding me to this place. 

I went to a set of vigil lights, took a dollar out of my wallet and pushed it into the money slot, then lit a candle.  I knelt there looking at Our Lady of Guadalupe and felt this rush of serenity flow through me.  My thoughts also leapt to those times when my mother and her mother would give us some money to light vigil lights.  Oh, the faith that those 2 women had.  As I prayed silently for help and discernment on how to get out of this predicament I got myself into I felt a different presence.  I turned to see a priest standing not far from me. 

He was the pastor of this fine parish.  He asked if I needed any help.  I wondered why he would ask me this, but I soon found out why.  You see this is a tight-knit parish and when a stranger happens in during the middle of the week that person usually needs some sort of help.  I explained to Fr. Nebelung my predicament.  He said, “Well then, you’ll be needing some sort of shelter and a job.  I think we can help with that if you aren’t afraid of a little hard work.”  I told him that there wasn’t much I wouldn’t be willing to do.  He asked me to bring my bike gear around to the back of the church where we secured it in a locked shed.  Then he walked towards the rectory.  I was thinking that it might not look good for me to be staying at the rectory, but I soon found that the rectory had a little cottage behind it.  

Fr. Nebelung unlocked the door.  The one room cottage was dark, but clean.  He told me this unit was used for just the sort of predicament I was in.  I could stay there free of charge for as long as I wanted on one condition, that I help the field workers at one of the local farms.  I looked at him and said “I hope you mean you want me picking produce from the fields because I don’t know how to drive a tractor, combine, or other such machinery.”  He laughed and said that I would indeed be picking produce from the fields.  I was to meet in front of the church at 4:00 a.m.  A truck would be by to pick me up.  I’d be able to connect with the owner of the farm once I got there.  The proper paperwork would be filled out and I’d receive my wages at the end of each day.  I thanked Fr. Nebelung.  He informed me that dinner was served in the rectory at 6:00 p.m. sharp.  He then instructed me to get rested because I would need it. 

I’m a morning person so being ready by 4:00 a.m. was not the issue of the day.  Riding in the back of a crowded pick-up truck was also not the issue.  Providing the proper documents to get paid was the easiest part of my day.  The issue was I soon learned what it’s like for many of the people living and working here in these United States.  Picking produce dawn to dusk is back breaking work.  The farm I was at provided water, food, and bathroom breaks, but I never saw such huge fields of potatoes, onions, and other produce items.  My co-workers seemed to pick 3-4 times what I picked that first day.  

There were times during the day that I felt they were talking about me as most spoke only Spanish.  I didn’t allow myself to dwell on this for I felt it was self-absorbent to think that they were talking about me, but I soon found out they indeed were doing just that.  A fine woman about 5-10 years older than me came up to me and although her English was broken I was able to understand that most of the workers felt I would never be back again.  

Ah, just the sort of motivation I needed to continue on for they had truly been right with their assumptions; I was thinking about finding different work, work more suitable to my needs.  But the more I thought about that, the more I realized just how arrogant that was to think that this field job was below me.  And I wasn’t about to prove to those field workers that they were right. 

So at the end of each day I would drag my tired, hurting body back to my cottage, I’d shower, and then would flop into bed falling asleep before my head even hit the pillow. 

I spent the next 3 months working there.  Not only did I make a lot of new friends of whom I discovered I was able to talk to even though we had such language barriers, but I was probably in the best physical shape I’d been in for years.  I knew that I had learned a lesson that would stick with me for the rest of my life or maybe I should say I had learned several lessons.  Those lessons learned were: 

  • Always have at least a month of income to survive on
  • Know that God is with you always
  • Don’t allow your pride to overshadow the gifts that God has placed before you
  • And most importantly, don’t ever allow your ego to think that you are better than anyone here on this fine earth.  We are all children of God and there’s not a one of us who doesn’t provide some value to this world.

And in my real world work hasn’t been quite that back-breaking, but I have been busy.  Busy enough that I found myself too tired to ride my bike on several occasions.  And then the “chicken shots” for my knees started wearing off, but I soon discovered that by riding at least a mile almost every day that the bike riding truly did help alleviate some of the pain from my knees.  It has been this discovery that has prompted me to get back on this bike and preserve much like I did in my imaginary world.  

And as I wrote about working with those field workers my thoughts went to Catholic Charities’ Family Immigration program and the wonderful works that they do.  We are blessed to have such dedicated and non-judgmental employees who have helped hundreds learn English through ESL classes and help and guide those seeking to become American citizens.  I also think about all those people who work so hard at manual labor jobs and who have probably faced the prejudices of many who feel they are superior for whatever reason.  There isn’t one job here on this earth that isn’t important because each job is held by a human being, a child of God.  May we all learn to drop our prejudices and accept each person as a child of God, a person who deserves the same amount of dignity that we want for ourselves.  And may we all continue to keep going the distance in God’s name.

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