Thursday, December 23, 2010

A good day of office hours


In my office, waiting for Eleanor. A man walks in and goes into the sanctuary. As he comes out, I introduce myself. His name’s Fernando. From Spain. Always wanted to see inside. I share a brochure. And our story. He smiles and we exchange holiday greetings as I see him out to the steps.

Eleanor arrives with her daughter Isabel bringing a load of computer equipment to donate. Eleanor was my intern from Union during 2000-2001. One of my best. Her project was the amazing “Parallel Lives” production that drew over 250 to our sanctuary and led to a six month exploration of racism with small groups.When she was here we were on our best upward swing. Later she would bring her daughter to the program Rudy ran in our gym. She’s now an ordained UCC minister. I am hoping I can get her involved in our project. She’d bring the organizational skills I need so much.

Her daughter Isabel is alert and precocious. As Eleanor and I are talking, Isabel breaks in. “ You know what you should do?” she says, “if you start to fix this place up, make it better, on one of the floors you should make small rooms. Parents could rent them and their children could use them for art studios and you could have art supplies to sell. We kids need a place to make art.” I’m amazed at how her idea is exactly what we’re trying to create. “That’s a great idea, Isabel,” I say. “ I’m going to write that down. Tell me your full name so I can give you credit.” “I’m Isabel Mackie Harrison Bregdon,” she says. “They call me Isabel or Izzy and my Spanish friends call me Isabella.” She pauses. “And you know what else? You need to have two rooms for homeless people, people with no place to stay. They could stay here.” She has understood our Centre vision without even knowing it. “And you know how you could make money? You could buy things at one price and sell them higher. Or people could give you things and then you sell them.” I laugh and tell her I’m going to put her on our advisory committee.

As we are talking, Deacon James walks in with his broom. I introduce him to Eleanor. He became a member after her time. He sees that the sweeping is done for the day. And so after hand shakes and holiday greetings, he’s on his way. We talk about getting together to see what might be possible and out of the corner of my eye, I see a woman walk in and sit in the pews, looking up at the stained glass window.

Isabel has walked down the aisle and is studying the creche. I tell her about how in Central America, they call them nacimientos. That on Christmas, someone will steal your baby Jesus and when they bring it back you have to give them a party. And how in Mexico, they put baby Jesuses in Roscas de Reyes (“bread of kings”) that are then ransomed for parties, with tamales. isabel is not sure what tamales are but likes the idea. While we talk, Eleanor notices that Isabel is eying baby Jesus. “Don’t steal the baby Jesus, okay Isabel?” Isabel smiles and laughs.

I see Eleanor and Isabella to the door. They’re heading to WSCAH for some volunteer work. She looks across the street. “I’ve been negotiating with those guys for a good tree price,” she says. “Francois and Max,” I say. “I’ve been taking them coffee. Looking for a good deal myself.” And I tell her about the Quebecois Christmas tree cartels, the Sopranos style competition for control of street locations. Isabel says that if I keep looking, I’ll see their tree. Eleanor says they’ll pick it up on their way to the country, put it on top of the car. I wish them a Merry Christmas.

It’s cold. I want to lock up and leave. Looking around, I see there’s still clean up to do after the crafts fair. We need another day. The woman is still sitting in the pew. I don’t want to disturb her. In winter clothes, it’s hard to tell who she might be. I walk up and tell her I need to close up, ask if I can do anything.

She looks up and I’m surprised to see she looks like a young middle class woman. She’s sitting lotus style on the bench. “No,” she says, “I’ve just been enjoying the quiet time. I always wanted to come in here. I was just passing by, saw the door was open.” Her name is Heather, she lives up on 103rd. I share a brochure and some of our story. Tell her I hope she comes back. “Thanks for the quiet time,” she says, “I needed that.”

I lock up, get ready to go. Can I actually get my shopping done? Get a tree and put it up? Will anyone come tomorrow night? Can we get signs? Will the Hammond work? Will someone help me with candles? Cider? It’s time to get moving. It’s been a good day of office hours.

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