Hi my friends. I wonder if you're getting a little squirmish like myself about how The Vicissitudes is starting to look like a facebook page? It serves a purpose though. Sometimes I have challenges that I'd rather not talk about directly. I prefer to post something kicky and funny and definitely Jamaican-themed. (With the exception of the Trey Songz interview, haha.) When I have processed the relevant situation, I write. And also when it is most appropriate and convenient. So, don't give up on me please. I still write.
I had also been sending some of my blog posts to newspapers. So, I had started to style the wording differently. But, it seems the newspapers are....ya: A waste of my time. So, I am going to just be like Vybz Kartel and? Du wa mi waa fi du! A feel like tekking it to dem dis year!
So! Here we go!
In my post in October last year I spoke about a not so derelicte work situation. I refrained from getting into details on my blog because you know how the internet is. Well, as of last Friday I no longer work for my church as the secretary. So, I am ready.
It is funny that I became a church secretary. Most people don't believe me when I say I am a Christian. With my dirty language and all the things you just may have noticed in my writing, I think the reaction is fair. But, yeah, I am my own Christian. In my own way.
I'd been home for a year working temp jobs in spurts. I needed an income in order to save, hopefully go back to law school or go and do a Masters in Fine Arts. But jobs are increasingly hard to come by these last days. I found out that the then secretary had resigned. So, after a taxing year of applying for several jobs, no interviews and being passively bummed out - I just said to my pastor...I think I'd like to apply for the job as secretary. He was surprised, exclaimed I was overqualified. I told him that it was not a problem. In fact, I said something very alarmingly true which was: The jobs I am qualified for are being taken by Ph.D holders because they can't get anything either.
The next day, I was asked to start later in the week. It seemed to be a blessing.
My Grandma had said our last prayer together in the Christmas of 2009. She had held my hand gently with a little squeeze and asked God to provide a job for me and a good life for the new year. She was so thrilled when I told her in January 2010 that the prayer had worked. As it always did. As it still does. She had said to me: Alright then... Aum, Danielle. I want to ask you one more thing. And I don't want you to laugh. You si like how Kamille (my sister) is a Sunday School teacher? I think you should teach Sunday School too.
Then she gave me her little happy, mischievous smile. So, yeah, she prayed and I got the job.
In terms of relating this to the focus of kindness: the pastor and I were kind to each other. They needed a secretary, I needed a job. The job didn't pay much but it helped and it paid most of my bills. I gave service to my church and I guess to God. They took me out of the land of broke pocket babysitting. I became myself again to an extent and was no more a temperamental zombie. The job could be seen as a mutual act of kindness.
The job situation was not "strange yet beautiful" however. It was on a whole a big potentially dangerous and demotivating scenario. My church is located in a garrison basically which is an area rife with crime and violence. I've never considered myself a snob or a bourgeois person. But hey, the workplace was beneath my standards. It was bad also because I spent a lot of time alone and had an actual run in with criminals coming in, trying to pounce on me....twice the church was broken into while I worked there.....I wasn't physically there however at the time of the robberies. My last day was Friday past and I rejoiced because on Monday which is tomorrow I won't have to go to work and sit alone all day....I won't have to be brave and play tough to a scary faced ex-convict who comes regularly insisting on a donation from the pastor.
I've been holding my breath for a year. I will stray but get back to the point :)
The job tried to break my spirit. It really did. Not because I had a rude or slave driver boss or bitchy coworkers. It almost broke my spirit because I was finding out that the church that I had come to be a part of and love as my family.....was a sham.
I didn't feel like Sister Danielle, the young Christian woman trying to be a good person and servant of God. I felt like Sister Danielle, the one who had fallen from grace, had to take a job as a low income wage earner and hence, not be worthy of the church members' love and understanding. It was very tough. A huge awakening. I will never think the same about the church again. But, I am still grateful that I got a chance to make an income and have some sort of life as an adult.
So in a way, I guess I could stop and ponder kindness in light of this revelation. What does charity entail, prescribe and attract?
When I started phrasing this article in my head, I wanted to focus on a few representative incidents that occurred during my time there. Things that happened that made me see poverty, wealth, Christianity and life differently:
Maybe two months after I had started working at the church, the phone rang. The person on the line asked me if this is the number to call for prayer. I said, this is a church. You can come in for prayer. She said, can I get prayer on the phone? I said, I am just the secretary. It would be best for you to come and sit and pray with the Pastor or an elder. She said "Is arite." And she hung up. I was torn and upset with myself for several weeks after. So, I said, I will do better.
A few weeks later. A woman came to the office door telling me that her husband had hit her in her back with a shovel. She also said her tooth was rotting and she was getting an ear infection, she showed me her ear and temple which were swollen and inflamed. She showed me her shoes that were falling apart. She told me she needed help. I almost cried. I said to her, come back here in two weeks. I will have some things for you. That was a Friday. The following Monday she was back. I explained to her that I meant two weeks because that would be pay day. She left. I got some things for her in the supermarket on pay day. Stuff that would help. I called her because I had taken her number. She came by, she took the things. She was so happy. So was I.
Within a week she was back, and I was now referred to as her angel. She brought her son for me to meet. She came to set an appointment to see the Pastor for counselling. I set the appointment. She came, but the Pastor had not remembered. I rescheduled. This time the Pastor came early. I reminded her twice about the appointment and also I reminded the Pastor. She came an hour and a half late when another person had gone to see the Pastor. She blamed me, asked me why was I trying to hurt her? Harm her? What had she done? why did she deserve this treatment? Why was I nice to her and now so awful? Didn't I think that one day I would need help? Sorry for me, because one day I will not get help and I will suffer.
After that she came back a number of times, sometimes with her abusive husband. A part of me died. A part of the good part of me.
They would come, be rude, demanding goods and just be spirit killing nuisances. Because I had bought goods for her, word spread and junkies started coming by the office. One of them came when I was alone as usual. He was deranged and told me so. He begged for money to buy food because he was just released from prison and was broke. I gave him 200 Jamaican dollars, he came back within an hour saying the money had fallen through a hole in his pocket. Could I give him more?
Another came between that junkie's first and second visit. So 20 minutes after the junkie left the first time. This one insisted that I buy him a pair of shoes because he wants me to take care of him.
........it was rough. Being kind. Caring about someone less fortunate. I questioned the purpose of kindness. Whether people should really give.
You know, what it entails, prescribes and attracts.
It hurts now too.
Well, I got over the trauma for the most part. I died a little, part of the young, unaware good part. Several crazy people came and will continue to come to the church. A one handed Rasta man came once demanding to see the Pastor so he could take back what belonged to him.....because he was Joseph the brother of Jesus, son of Mary. Another man in a shirt and tie and briefcase came daily for a week asking to see the Pastor, saying he was a minister from overseas who was in Jamaica for a while while his wife was staying in Jerusalem. He once camped out on the floor outside and did his devotions. When I was asked to find out what he wanted to see the Pastor about. He said. that he needed somewhere to keep his suitcases and was wondering if the Pastor could accommodate him.
There is a Jamaican poet by the name of Edward Baugh. Very accomplished but not well known. He has a poem called Nigger Sweat. I quoted it several times last year. The final lines of the poem are:
"and a promise you, boss,
if I get through I gone,
gone from this bruk-spirit, kiss-me-arse place."
I ended the journey as the secretary of the church. My spirit will rebound but I will never forget the experience.
In closing, as bad as things were and got, I still managed to pray for someone before I left. A woman just walked off the street, very distraught and basically, you know like when you don't care so you look like a ruthless cowboy at a show down? She was at her rope's end. She told me she wanted to kill herself. Because of what she had to go through because of poverty. She said a woman directed her to go to the church and talk to someone. Somehow she got there she said, she said she didn't know how. I said, the Pastor is coming in an hour. She said, she couldn't wait. Just talk to her. So she told me what was upsetting her. And I was scared as hell but, I took control and I prayed. When I said Amen she looked like she needed more. She had desperately needed prayer. She left. I felt strange but prouder of myself as a person....not so unworthy to be called a Christian......I remember now, how in September last year when I was dealing with the church robberies, my depression over my Grandma's passing, a bit of man drama.....how I called my cousin in New Jersey. She was in the doctor's office herself with a family emergency. She needed to go somewhere immediately. And I heard her insisting to her husband that he give her some time with me. And in the middle of her turmoil, she found time to support me in mine. She prayed.
I remember these things. And I say, thank you Jesus. Thank you for friends, family, love, life and YOU!