Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Saving the Best For Last

It's really not even possible to sugar coat a day like today.

As the largest street newspaper in North America, the twice monthly paper releases we conduct are vital to the distribution of each new issue produced. It's the first time our vendors--all homeless or formerly homeless individuals--get their hands on their new product to take to the streets of Nashville. It's a very important day in the life of our organization. But today was one of those days when Murphy's Law kicks you in the head and then laughs at you just for spite.

In short, we had to relocate to a new area of the church where the release is held because of an art project consisting of handmade birds perched on lines strung across the front of the sanctuary. And even the best laid plans don't prepare you for the unexpected hurdles: record high temps outside and an AC unit trying to keep up, volunteers calling out, printers not working, the power (and thus the microphones) going name it. Needless to say it was one of the afternoons you just heave a deep sigh and keep on chuggin. But there's a bright spot in this whole scenario and I wish my tired brain would allow me to recall his name.

After serving hundreds of familiar faces--some gracious and some in their usual state of ornery--we finally called the last numbers to come through the line to purchase their papers. And the very last person to come through was a new face--a vendor trainee--participating in his very first paper release. He was short in stature with rosy cheeks and sandy blonde hair and his awe at the assembly line we had constructed to distribute over 12,500 papers in just a few hours was apparent on his face. As the very last person to be called, he had every right to feel grumpy or impatient; instead, he was a refreshing reminder of the reason we do what we do.

As he pulled out a few wrinkled bills to pay for a handful of papers to sell, he grinned and thanked me and said, "This is all very new to me. Thank you so much."

And with that, all the tension between my shoulder blades and every ounce of frustration I had felt over snags that were beyond my control melted away. This guy was genuinely excited about the simple blessing of having a job.

And suddenly, I became very grateful for my own.

Real joy comes not from ease or riches or from the praise of men, but from doing something worthwhile. ~Wilfred Grenfell

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