As part of the new-hire process, my new health care system requires background checks and finger-printing prior to my start date. I was given the name of a website and told to register at one of the offices that I would find most convenient. Ladies and gentlemen, when the temperature is approaching 100 degrees, there is nothing convenient about a jaunt into center city. Much of the walk is devoid of shade. I took a frozen water bottle with me and decided to offer the torment up for the souls in Purgatory. Still, once it was over, I had a welcome sense of accomplishment, like one more notch had been completed.
On my way back, I passed an older-adult center on Broad Street, where scores of elderly people were exiting with fans, still in their original boxes. I wondered how they were going to get their prizes home but it looked someone with a large van was already working on it. I can remember back when a fan was all I had to cool off in my bedroom at night. Now, I'd feel like I was suffocating in this kind of heat if that's all I had.
Although I was practically soaking wet at the end of this venture, I thought I would catch Noon Mass before heading home. A few blocks from the church, a gentleman stopped me.
"Would you please put in a request for some cooler weather?"
Now, since I was blocks away from the church and was carrying nothing that would identify me as Catholic or anything else for that matter, I was a bit taken aback. How did this man know I was going to Mass, or was it just coincidence?
He continued, reminding me how just a few scant months ago, we were buried in snow.
"We never appreciate what we got", he said, "Remember how we were complaining we couldn't wait for summer? Wouldn't you love some of that snow today?" and he went on his way.
How right he is.
Since yesterday, I've gotten a number of calls from the folks I left behind. For the record, the person who I thought was getting fired was given another chance. I have a feeling they wanted her fired, but only so long as I was going to do the axing and take the political fall-out for it. This person probably did deserve to be fired, but she needs her job and given my experience, it would be much easier for me to have to find a new one than for her, so I can't say I'm disappointed that they decided to give her one more opportunity to right her ship. One of the surgeons called today to express his disappointment that I was leaving, but also, his gratitude for having helped him while I was there. I didn't think I did much at all for him, but I am realizing that whatever I think of my job performance, the folks I served and worked with felt like I did more than anyone else had.
One of the nurses called and told me that I was the best boss she ever had. It's difficult for me to see that and the irony of all of this is that I'm going to be working for the person who I think is the best boss I ever had. What a blessing and a joy to know that people thought that highly of me and that they felt they were helped by my support as their boss.
I am learning to accept these compliments and to give thanks to God for the ability I have to do what I do, which is a blip on the radar in the big scheme of things. I have to admit it's been nice being home with the kids, who aren't so little any more. My son seems especially to appreciate my presence at home. I was tempted to give in to the kind of despair that sometimes grips me when I realize the mistakes I've made in life and how everyone else has had to pay for them right along side of me. What purpose would that serve and what good would it accomplish? I'm blessed to have this week off, a brief respite from work in the scorching days of summer, and that I'll also have next week to get away for a few days at the shore with my younger two. It's too late in life to think I can reverse the previous errors of my thinking, but looking ahead, I can try to impart the values I missed to my own kids, especially my girls.
I was watching a story on the news where they showed children playing in the cool water of a sprinkler. I am getting a fair amount of playful grief over the fact that I'm going on a religious pilgrimage to Rome in September but the kids aren't. I thought back to my own childhood, when we scarcely ever went on a vacation. When one of the neighborhood hooligans turned on the fire hydrant, it was like Christmas in July. We ran and splashed in the filthy street water like we were on a beach in the Caribbean. Part of me looks down on the experience now, but for some kids, that's as good as their summer is going to get. And they're not complaining about it. They're glad to have the spray of cool water in an urban playground overheated by the July sun and humidity.
I can remember being kept inside by my mother on scorching days like this. Once evening arrived, she would take us for a walk to the Five and Dime, to buy some novelty item, and allow us to get a water-ice on the way home. Then we'd sit on the steps, listening to the neighbors' gossip and the sound of the Phillies game over the radio. Simple joys that didn't cost a lot of money and have created some of the happiest summer memories.
A few months from now, it will be January and we'll be in the throes of another ice storm. I hope I remember to be thankful for the summer heat when those days arrive, what always seems like sooner than it should be.