by Loring Mackey
Life deals us many unpleasant experiences, so I really don't go out of my way to look for more. In that spirit, I have studiously tried to avoid helping people move their belongings from one house to another. Unfortunately, I have three distinct disadvantages: I am moderately large, I am moderately strong, and (worst of all) I own a pickup truck. So, when people plan their moves they invariably think of me and my pickup. In order to avoid third-floor apartments, narrow staircases, washers, dryers, and refrigerators, I prepared a suitable array of convincing excuses for not helping these transients with their four tons of metal, vinyl, and weird undergarments.
People can be cunning. I was especially wary of anyone who called me in a cheerful tone of voice as if they were inviting me to play basketball or accept a civic award. "So, what are you doing Saturday morning?" they say. My best response is, "Well, I have this highly contagious fungus infection. I hope it's better by Saturday. Why? What's up?" I have a repertoire of varied and ambiguous physical maladies that can put off any would-be mover.
In fairness I had tried to help people move, but it was so awful! Usually, ten people would show up. Two were always elderly well-meaning grandparents who would smile a lot and put a few things in their Yugo never to seen again. There would be a middle-aged husband and wife who needed to be reassured that there was life after a move and that their marriage would survive. The others would be an asthmatic friend with a pack of Camels in his T-shirt, an overly buoyant relative with two cases of beer (which was being reduced rapidly), and three children who would cause the science of psychotherapy to retrogress into the dark ages. And of course I would round out the crowd. I, who wanted to be anywhere but there, especially on a beautiful, sunny Saturday morning. I was thinking "greater love hath no man" but believing, "Father if it be your will let these encyclopedias pass from my shoulders."
AS FATE WOULD have it, our family had been drawn into a new little church. And as we checked the church out, we found people seemed to have a real commitment to one another especially in each other's daily lives. We began attending Sunday worships. We experienced love and grace in many new relationships. We found ourselves drawn head-over-heels into this unique community. It seemed to be where God wanted us to be. After about eight months, we were ready to join.
At the end of a Sunday worship someone announced that a certain family was going to be moving. As I slowly backed into a dark corner, I noticed that church members seemed to be happy about the upcoming move, even looking forward to it. I began to wonder about my Christian commitment. Nevertheless, I rehearsed my excuses though this turned out to be a total waste of time because no one asked me if I would come to help. No high pressure, nothing. I began to feel guilty. So, slowly, like a woman who forgets the pain of childbirth, I lied to myself that helping people move really wasn't so bad.
It was an amazing event. Thirty or so people, young and old, male and female, showed up at the appointed time demanding coffee and donuts. We all formed a chain of bodies up and down the staircase and boxes began spewing forth from the house. The jokes began as a playful banter and soon grew into a raucous lampooning of ourselves and our situation. Good-natured fellowship abounded. To my amazement I was having fun.
Soon we were done at one location and we were off to the new home. The chain reformed as more stragglers arrived. The move was completed in two-and-a-half hours, at that time a new world's record. The family was situated, though hardly settled, in their new home. Suddenly, out came the pizza, on went the stereo, and a spontaneous party began. I didn't want to leave. My back didn't hurt and no one had been interested in my pickup truck. It was a miracle.
IN THE INTERVENING years, I have participated in dozens of moves by what seems to be the most nomadic church in Christendom. They, and I, still enjoy it. They even moved my family. I'm hardly a romantic, but these moves remind me of barn raisings'they have that same spirit of working together to make an unpleasant task enjoyable.
So, I have repented of my excuses and on-demand illnesses. The heck with basketball, when's the next move?