Once upon a time, I thought vocation – an inclination toward a particular career or a divine call to God’s service – was merely a word on the SATs. While I side-stepped my true calling, I held several different jobs, sometimes two at a time. For many years, I worked seven days a week during the holidays, which ran from just before Thanksgiving to a few days past New Years.
At that time, my family was in the food business. We ensured that candied yams, assorted meats, pastas, Buche de Noel, latkes, applesauce, chicken soup with matzo balls, and Christmas cookies blessed and nourished thousands at the holidays. Not only did we take orders, ring up sales, and wrap gift baskets, we also planned and catered other people’s holiday parties. On Christmas Eve, we watched the last of the gifts go out the door. On Christmas Day, we prepared and served Christmas dinner for another family. Usually, I didn’t mind. I enjoyed the vicarious thrills of different menus and the sound of customers’ delight.
Recently, I reflected on this time as I shopped at a local gourmet market and watched a young woman wrapping gift baskets, tucking a jar of raspberry jam here, a box of butter cookies there. The rush of shoppers was palpable, especially from a young father who checked his list twice and wheeled his children around.
I roamed aisles, as if I had gone back in a time machine, noticing piles of international cheeses, infused olive oils, boxes of pastries, bulk candies, chips, nuts, and – this being Florida – a variety of flowers and orchids. As I mused on the scenery and waited my turn at the prepared foods counter, two strangers rejoiced in being “off” for the holidays. A young man scooping out chicken salad muttered, “I’m working.”
“Yes, so am I,” I whispered.
He nodded, as if assured he wasn’t alone.
Later, at another store, as I sampled some French Roast and enjoyed a momentary caffeine jolt, a clerk asked, “Off for the holiday now?”
“No,” I said. “In the flow of it and still going.”
“Oh, what do you do?” she asked, as if we belonged to the same club and hadn’t met yet.
I replied that I’m a pastor. As we wished each other Merry Christmas and pleasant work days, a young woman wearing a University of Florida t-shirt stopped me and asked, “Did you say you’re a pastor?”
“Yes,” I said, curious about how this might obligate me.
“Wow!” she gushed. “That’s awesome. I’m so glad to meet you. Where I’m from, women aren’t pastors.”
As I traveled home and unpacked my groceries, treats and trinkets, I reflected on what it means to serve during the holidays. In certain ways, little has changed for me. I said, “Yes,” to the call of service, first providing food for the body, now offering sustenance for the spirit. Either way, I’m grateful for my calling and all the people I imagine I bless, who also bless me.
Across the United States and various regions of the globe, men and women will serve during the holidays – in airports, churches, hospitals, hotels, markets, military bases, police stations, post offices, restaurants, and theatres. Whatever our vocational call, may we be those who bless and brighten other lives.
Merry Christmas, Blessed Readers, and God Bless Us, Everyone!
© 2015 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks. All rights reserved.