Tuesday, September 30, 2008
The Fork in the Road
One of my pastor’s most famous sermons was about getting a flat tire on her way to preach a funeral. She could tell she had run over something because it make a horrible clanking noise. Obviously, this complicated her day beyond what she had planned. When she got somebody to change the tire they found a fork sticking out of it. She told us she had almost titled the sermon, “Watch Out for the Fork in the Road.”
I thought of Anne this week when one of our volunteers came into the office to show us a fork. It looked just like someone had run over it many, many times with a car. But not this fork—this was no ordinary flat fork. The volunteer said he was making his bed and moved a whole stack of mattresses. When he moved the stack the fork fell out from between two mattresses. He came into the office to ask us about what he had seen on the mattresses: “Made by Louisiana Prison Enterprises.” Well, yes, we knew the mattresses were made there. That’s why they are so hard and made a good joke. (If a hard mattress can ever be a joke.)
I had missed the point the volunteer was making. What he was holding in his hand was an honest to goodness “shank”, a weapon fashioned out of a metal fork stolen from the prison dining room. It hadn’t been run over by a car; it had been flattened by repeated bashes with a rock or other hard object. One of the pastors here had worked in prison ministries and he said he knew for certain this was a real live, bonifide shank. Our fork was on it’s way to becoming a weapon before someone had to hide it in a mattress.
We’re tough out here at the PDA camp, folks. Our mattresses have shanks in them.
We’ve had another great group of volunteers. I’m having a blast. We have a piano in the dining hall and this week brought us not one, but two, guitarists, plus a tamborine. They played tonight for a solid hour before dinner. And the room has great acoustics.
I’m also spending time with the co-manager of my dreams. I think Colleen O’Toole was a gift from God, possibly because I’m old and I’ve been a good girl. Colleen is 23 and a recent college grad that took a year off to serve in AmeriCorps between her sophomore and junior year. She’s easy going but very attentive to the volunteers.
Our temperaments are very compatible. She’s one of those people who can be both energetic and relaxed at the same time. She has a better sense of direction than mine, which isn’t hard to accomplish but means that she’s helped me explore New Orleans. We found Brad Pitt’s village of sustainable houses in the Ninth Ward. We’ve shopped Magazine Street. We like the same food and have found a great mid-eastern café in another of the lesser-known neighborhood of New Orleans.
And we agree politically. That’s not too surprising since most young people support Obama. But, last week, when we noticed a handful of more-assertive volunteers wanted to watch Fox news instead of CNN in the lounge, we just took the TV out of my trailer (where it didn’t work anyway) and moved it into the office. The fun part was that in order to do this we had to install a cable splitter then run about 100 feet of cable from the main cable, up over the suspended ceiling and through the office ceiling. This involved ladders and an assortment of macho tools to do our work. I had a blast. She’s the perfect running buddy for me.
If it sounds like I’m having fun out here in Katrina Country, it’s because I am. So, here comes the part about “Watch Out for the Fork in the Road.”
I’m going home tomorrow.
Through a strange snafu of mis-communication they have ended up with more village managers than they need. So I’m expendable. However, The Powers That Be say they want to use me in Texas to help set up the camps for volunteers to rebuild after Hurricane Ike.
I get to take a little time to finish the book, rest up and then go play some more. When this will happen, I don’t know. But I know that God knows. And that's all that matters.