Going Through Changes?

My friend Brenda lives at the top of a mountain near Boone, NC.  A visit to her beautifully renovated home can be a mix of sun, rain, heat, cold, even snow — all in the same day. She has a saying about the weather:

“If you don’t like it, wait a few minutes. It’ll change.”

Change is life’s constant.

When I came to Raleigh, nearly three decades ago, downtown was asleep, then-Fayetteville Street Mall populated mostly by pigeons. Lunch out meant one of three destinations: Poole’s Luncheonette, The Mecca or Hudson Belk’s Capital Room.

Traffic on I-40 was a trickle for a girl accustomed to a 45-minute commute through a maze of Atlanta cloverleafs. Big Texas builders hadn’t arrived to construct the Triangle’s now overbuilt townhouses, apartments and PUDS (that’s planned unit developments for the uninitiated). Nortel and IBM ruled the high tech roost.

What a difference a few years can make.

  • Poole’s, originally morphed into the neuvo Vertigo Diner, then reincarnated as dinner-only Poole’s Diner.
  • Belk left downtown, its renovated building now is home to Eyewitness News 11 along a re-opened Fayetteville Street.
  • Nortel went bankrupt and auctioned off its assets.
  • IBM, renowned for its “respect for the individual,” routinely dismisses domestic employees like a snake sheds skin.

You know the rest of the story:  building boom gone bust, I-40 traffic grown dense and dangerous, employees “resource action-ed”  out of jobs two, three times in the last five years.

Sure, the Triangle still has its titans of industry: SAS, Cisco, GlaxoSmithKline. But who knows what a day may bring? Even my friend Brenda is thinking of coming down from that picturesque mountain.

Are there any sure things in a world of flux?  God says:  “I am the Lord, I change not.” That’s a sure foundation on which to build a life.

An Officer and a Friend

There I was in a steady rain in the stands at Cardinal Gibbons High School waiting for the track meet to begin or be called off when a sudden heavy downpour forced the guy beside me to share my over-sized umbrella.

I struck up a conversation.  “Who’s your child out there, girl or a boy?” I asked.

I plead guilty to talking to strangers — something  I have consistently taught my children never to do. My excuse is that I spent too many years as a journalist. We are paid to talk to strangers with ease; it’s a hard habit to break.

“Neither,” he said. “I’m a probation officer. I’m just here to support one of mine. My own children are grown, out of college.”

My guess is he wasn’t really an officer at that moment. More like a friend. Friends love at all times; they support you when you need it. Even in a cold rain.

I was sure that anyone standing outdoors in pouring rain — without an umbrella — at what turned out to be a 4-hour track meet had to be a parent. Faulty assumption.

We think we know something about the people we stand next to at sporting events, ride office elevators with every morning or sit beside in a church pew every week. Chances are we know nothing.

Our conversation ended when the guy’s Blackberry rang. “One thing about this job is there is no ‘off,'” he said as he answered. “Crime is always going on somewhere.”

Thankfully, love and friendship are always going on, too. Rain or shine, on or off the clock.

Make the Return

All the presents have been opened. The last Christmas cookie has been eaten. The tree is dropping needles all over the wood floor; and you go back to work in the morning. Bummer, right?

It’s hard to return to office routines after the holidays. We’ve enjoyed late-night games of chess or pinocle, seen the new movie releases — eaten, drank and made merry with no thought to alarm clocks, deadlines or unfinished projects on the job.

Why can’ t we linger here a little longer?

Even the shepherds had to go back to work. The herald angels found them on the job that first Christmas — out in the field watching over their flocks.  They were told a Savior had been born in Bethlehem, and they set out to see for themselves. But the shepherds didn’t camp at the manger anymore than we can.

They returned to the fields where their flocks were waiting.  They went back to work.

Each of us has a field of influence and responsibility. Maybe it’s sitting in front of an office computer, seeing patients in a hospital, caring for children  in daycare, managing loans at a bank or moving mail at a post office.

Wherever we’re expected in the morning, what will be our attitude on arrival?  The shepherds returned to work, “glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen.”

We’ve enjoyed bounty and blessing this Christmas. Why not imitate the shepherds, and take a spirit of gratitude back to work?