Preparation for the upcoming Spring Bridal Show has given me renewed zeal for the perusal of cast-off stuffed shops. Eyes bright and with a spring in my step, I haunt their aisles sleuthing for veils and crinolins, well-meaning centerpieces, and glassware.
My area of the universe is sharply divided into communities based on its original immigrants. All the "St.-towns" signify the arrival of the French people. All the "darps", "felds", and "villes" house those of Germanic descent. The felds and darps each humbly boast about eighty plain stuccoed churches per town and are known for their abstinence from alcohol and tobacco, dancing, gambling, and often smiling and laughing. The Saints have tall steeples, community halls, and weekly bingo nights. Although there is movement between these people groups, its been enlightening to observe these still prevalant distinctions after having lived in a more diverse area, then returning to darpville as an adult and feeling my (bible) belt pinching just a little.
The nursing home that I used to work at is held in an old Roman Catholic convent. On the third floor, empty of residents, some volunteers turned its echoey rooms into a thrift shop to raise money for the people who dwell beneath it. The volunteers are happy, generous people who like to hug visitors, offer discounts, and leave out boxes and boxes of junky toys for the kids to play with while the moms shop to their hearts content. There are rooms overflowing with neckties and stuffies, plastic virgin Marys and light-up Jesuses. The housewares room is stuffed with ten cent glassware and wine glasses that no one pretends are actually candle holders. If a customer is shopping for say..... a tacky bridal party, one of the volunteers might listen to the tale with interest, then insist on carrying heavy boxes of plates and petro Canada wine goblets down the elevater and straight into the limo... AND give me a killer deal for them. While dancing about my twelve dollars fed into their plastic cash box, they might even share a few stories about their own theme parties. We might joke about having a few drinks together sharing the glass that I found with Steven Harper's signiture on it.
Energized by my windfall of disposal dinnerware from St. Elsewhere, I strolled down to my local church-ville-endorsed-mission-statement-burdened love-your-darp-neighbor establishment to see if I could find some pearl drop earrings or pink dyed pumps. The cashiers must have been feeling quite a pinch in their brassieres and a bit of a cramp from their hush puppies based on the welcome we never received. They fed stern glares at the preschoolers gazing at their polished plastic toys locked away from dirty, dirty hands, enshrined behind proudly polished glass. Their faces looked permanently lined in all the wrong places, set in patterns of sheer determination to put in some goodwill missionary volunteer hours, sell some scrubbed trash to dirty people from one of those St towns, and then tidily send a cheque off to some starving people far, far away. I did a quick circuit, noting their tidily stacked corelle plates, $35.00 wedding gowns from 1979, and ice cream pails for 25 cents.
While gazing at the fake pearls safely locked down beside the cashier, I couldn't help but overhear an altercation between a young mother, her daughter, and the volunteer at the cashier post. The child had asked for her things to be packed in her own bag, to which the cashier Hmmmmphed; (with face and body language to match her dour mood)
"I don't know which stuff is yours". Her displeasure was palpable.
I cringed inwardly, and hunkered down to more closely study the pearls.
Mother of child had clearly tired of being treated suspiciously and as a total inconvenience. She interjected on her daughter's behalf and thanked the cashier never so very much for being rude to the girl, a bona fide customer with rights to respectful treatment.
I stole glances at the women manning their precious cash register. One of them noticed me and took the oppurtunity to share her displeasure by rolling her eyes and berating the customer for allowing her daughter to "Run around the store with valuable glass stuff". I hearded my crew a little closer, fearing they too might accidently smash some rare crystal goblet and feel the wrath of the be-church-ed lady with bun-too-tight.
The story goes on, but I grow weary of telling it. I did get involved. (DUH). I did try to tactfully engage the volunteers in a discussion about customer service and the true intent of goodwill efforts. I was told that I "had no right to give them heck,as I didn't know them, that the volunteer was not responsible, as she had a heart condition and wasn't feeling well....". I did go out of my way to seek out the snubbed customer and offer an apology for the crummy representation of our town and our do-gooders. And being somewhat over ananlytical, I did walk home feeling nauseated. I also considered boycotting the store, but we all know what nonsense that is. That would be as crazy as giving up say... Coffee, or gin, or or my bi-weekly game of bingo in the neighboring town...
It reminds me of what Jesus warned us about. Be careful not to go right back to RELIGION, which is what I just set you free from. Be careful not to get so caught up in rules and regulations, rights and wrongs, that you forget to love your neighbor. (Even when that means a customer from one of those towns.) Don't forget Who you represent. Don't forget that you are not above reproach.
The part that really bugs me is that as I was walking home and stewing on these things, I had a little whispery thingy in my head that said;
"Well, Joyce, if its grace that you're talking about, does that mean that you too will have to mentally offer grace to those self-righteous, pew-warning, rule-keeping, under-pleasured girdle girls?"
Maybe I should offer to join them for a cold one on the church steps poured into Francios petro Canada goblets.
Those valuable glass ones.