Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Cadillac Problems

I am the pastor of a congregation. One might think, therefore, that my internal struggles have to do with deep theological issues, or the study of family systems or matters of social justice.  One might think so, but that isn’t the case.  If you want to know my real issue - the thing that literally keeps me awake at night right now - it’s which bedroom set do I want to put in the master bedroom when I move into the parsonage.

Backstory:  A little over two years ago I realized that if things didn’t change pretty drastically, I was
going to be homeless before very long.  At best I would be living in a room in someone’s home or in a very low income senior facility.  So I began to purge my belongings so that I could fit everything into a small space.  I bought a single bed, the wood kind with storage underneath and pillows so it would look like a couch when not being slept in.  I had bookcases and bought baskets to keep my clothes and shoes in. I did everything I could to reduce my possessions - to simplify my life.  When I did move, it was into a 500 square foot back house, where I was quite comfortable with my dual purpose furniture and my cat.

Then my situation changed.  I was called to a new church and given a two bedroom apartment to live in. I was told that soon I would be moved to a three bedroom, two bath home.  It was understood that I would entertain a bit, hold meetings in my home and occasionally host overnight guests.  

I decorated the 2nd bedroom as a guest room, peacock themed shabby chic featuring white wicker with a white iron daybed.  It is delicate and feminine.  I thought I would use it as my office, but I’m more comfortable working at the kitchen table.  Instead, I often find myself standing in the doorway and admiring a mostly unused room. 

It’s almost time to move from the apartment to the parsonage.  I lay awake at night wondering whether I should use the pretty things in the Master bedroom.  But I’d need to find a dresser to match - and there’s a trundle under the day bed for over flow guests. I can’t use that with the wooden bed because of the drawers underneath.  Maybe I could store it in a closet  . . . I realize, of course, that it really doesn’t matter that I bought the white furniture for a guest room. It’s my house and my furniture.  I have no one to answer to. I can have a pretty, feminine bedroom if I want to. 

You see why I call these Cadillac problems.  The “problem” only arose because I am blessed with  so much stuff.   I find myself feeling a bit guilty when I think about having all that space, knowing much of it will be unused most of the time.  

My situation has changed.  I no longer have to worry about whether my paycheck will stretch to feed me for the entire month. I no longer have to worry whether I can pay all my bills.  I no longer have to worry if I will still have a job next month.  But for too many of my brothers and sisters in this country, even in this city, that’s not the case.  Their situation is still dire. They are still struggling to buy food and prescription medications and pay the bills and keep the car on the road and shoes on their growing children . . .

I’m grateful that my problems today are Cadillac problems.  And I am grateful that I remember what it’s like to have real problems, so that I can gratefully share of the bounty with which I have been blessed.

Friday, April 8, 2016


I returned from breakfast at the Hilton to discover my room had been freshly made up.  As I inhaled the light, pleasant fragrance in the air I heard a tap on the door.

"Housekeeping" she said.

Curious, as the room seemed perfectly made up, I opened the door to greet the smiling woman in my doorway.  She said she had come back to my room to thank me for leaving her a tip.  I said, "Of course, I left a tip. You deserve it. You work way too hard for way too little money." And then she hugged me.  After I assured her that I did not need anything, she went on her way to the next room, smiling.

As I turned back from the door I began to cry a little.  How lovely that she came to thank me.   How sad that she came to thank me.  How good that something I did could make another person smile.

Some of my friends work tirelessly on behalf of hotel workers.  I hope and pray that their efforts result in hotel workers finally earning a living wage, with health insurance and pensions and all the other benefits that the people staying in the rooms they clean enjoy.

I'll just keep preaching justice.  And leaving tips. And maybe, smiles will happen.