Servicing and light repairs

In the early days of rail travel, steam locomotives could only travel forward. Trains required turntables, like this one at the John Street roundhouse in Toronto, Canada, to turn them around for return journeys. While at John Street, the locomotives received “servicing and light repairs.”

Canadian Pacific rail car on the roundhouse at Roundhouse Park, Toronto, Canada.
Roundhouse Park, Toronto, Canada

According to the Toronto Railway Historical Association, locomotives serviced there were so attractively maintained, their appearance became known among railroaders as the “John Street polish.”

I’ll be taking a few weeks away for some “servicing and light repairs” of my own before turning around for a return journey, or at least some spit and polish before moving forward again.

Some of the time will be spent at my cottage—one of my roundhouses.

Do you have a “roundhouse.”

Orange and purple sunset over a lake

Revenue and paying

Where I live, in Canada’s National Capital Region, many people speak French. Perhaps the prevalence of the language around me is the reason why I began to ponder the word revenue.

In French, revenue is the feminine participle form of the verb revenir: to come back.

Elle est revenue. | She came back. 

For something to come back, it must go out in the first place. In other words, if you want revenue, put something out there, baby. She will come back. Elle reviendra.

These are the things I think about.

Also, paying attention. When we pay attention, we give our attention to something. Our attention goes out.

I don’t know about you, but when I wake up, give my head a shake, and choose to pay my close attention to a single thing in my surroundings, I always get something back.

Movement. Flow. To and fro. Giving and receiving. That’s how we get rich.

Put something out there. See what comes back.

Big rocks first

When I was in university years ago, I applied for a job. During my interview for the position, the board asked me to place the following items in order of importance: family, sports, friends, work, homework.

All these years later I now understand that the intent behind the question was: On any given day, when nothing special is going on, will you show up for work even if you have an overdue assignment or your friends are hosting the funnest party ever?

They wanted the answer to be: work, homework, family, friends, sports.

At the time I was thinking BIG PICTURE. What is most important, really? What is most important during times of crisis? What amounts to more than what you can carry in a file box at the end of the day?

I answered: Family, friends, work, homework, sports.

I didn’t get the job, but I still think I gave the right answer.

I was reminded of this by a video a friend posted on Facebook. It is important to take care of the big rocks first, or your life will be nothing but dust and pebbles.

Top 10 reasons to belong to a faith community

Who are the people helping you through this pandemic? I have neighbours, friends, my book club, and writing circles. I also have a core group of people who support me in all things: the fellow members of my progressive faith community, tirelessly doing good in the world. Here are my top 10 reasons why they are my peeps.

10. Critical thinking

There are faith communities out there that don’t tell you what to think. (There are. Really.) There are faith communities that say, “Yeah, I don’t know what it’s all about either, but let’s explore this mystery together.” Churches, mosques, synagogues and temples provide places for you to sit and listen and ponder fundamental matters.

9. A community of support

When life brings you to your knees (and it will) a faith community helps you through. The connections forged at deep levels in these groups help people to rebuild lives after tragic events like the loss of a child, the early death of a spouse, or global pandemic.

8. Lifelong learning

“I am still learning,” Michelangelo said. An insatiable curiosity drives happiness, and faith communities come with an endless supply of brain teasers.

7. Singing!

Our popular culture provides so few opportunities for belting out a tune. If you want to sing, play the guitar, or bang a drum, we have the place for you. Best of all, when you sing in these venues, even a solo, you don’t have to be perfect. The audiences are very forgiving.

6. Child education

What does the wisdom of Solomon mean? Under what circumstances might one require the patience of Job? What is a David and Goliath situation? How many prodigal sons, or daughters, do you know? Have you ever been the Good Samaritan? Our societies, our art, and our literature contain religious references which would be meaningless without adequate education about our heritages. 

5. Ritual

Humans create rituals. It is what we do. Jumping into, or out of, any particular activity without some form of ritual feels wrong. At a hockey game we introduce the players and sing the national anthem. At graduation ceremonies we wear gowns, deliver moving speeches, give individual rewards, and have a group celebration. Faith communities provide grounding rituals for the most pivotal moments in our lives. Sometimes the comfort of ritual is all that gets someone through the night.

4. Peace

When I returned to church as an atheist adult, I did it for my daughter. I was shocked to discover there was something for me too. At the time I had a young baby, I worked full time and we had just moved to a new house. I was stressed. When I went to church each week, I left my baby in the care of the nursery workers and sat in the pew. I expected to sit and roll my eyes at everything the minister said. Instead each week he said something that made me think.  Each week he said things that surprised me, challenged me. Each week, at some point, I had tears in my eyes. That hour of peace fulfilled a need I didn’t even know I had.

3. Helping others

Faith communities pick up where social agencies drop off. The charitable donations and volunteer activities of members of all kinds of faith communities keep many aspects of our society afloat. Clothing donations, homework programs, soup kitchens, food banks, emergency assistance, global outreach. The charitable deeds amount to millions of volunteer hours and billions of dollars.

2. Creativity and growth

A former minister of mine used to say, “Do it, and you’ll grow.” This simple statement encouraged many to take on tasks that made their fingertips tingle with fear. Our involvement with faith communities pushes us to do work that stretches us past our comfort zone.  Every time we climb over our fear and break through that barrier, we grow. We learn to get past fear. Are you brave enough to deliver a Christmas basket to a family in need and share the experience in their home? Would you teach Sunday School? Preach a sermon? Do it, and you’ll grow.

And the number 1 reason to belong to a faith community . . .

1. Fun

So many of the activities in faith communities are just plain fun!

A country lane through a grove of trees.
Photo by Donald L. Smith © 2014

The parable of the shovels

Two men stood on opposite sides of a field. An Overseer gave the order: “Dig.”

The tip of a metal shovel breaking ground.

The first man said “Okay! I can handle that. I’ve been preparing all my life to dig.” He selected his best shovel from five shovels leaning against a large storage shed, and he set to work. He had no trouble digging; his parents had paid for digging lessons when he was a child, and he had a college degree in shovelling. He was so good at digging that sometimes this man wished he had more shovels. The families of some of his friends had so many shovels they needed more than one storage shed. They had more than they could ever use, and this man knew his life would be better too, if he amassed a larger supply.

The second man across the field heard the “Dig” instruction and set to work. He had no shovel, so he dug using his bare hands. He had never had a shovel, so he wouldn’t have known what to do with one if he had it. He believed that shovels were something only other people had, and they were a dream he would never attain. He was a little afraid of shovels, truth be told. And the people who had shovels didn’t treat him nicely at all, so he didn’t want to become like them. Because he didn’t have a shovel, he had to dig longer and work harder than the other man, and he still didn’t get as much done. But he kept working. One day he fell ill, but he dug anyway. There are no such things a sick days for people with no shovels.

The first man didn’t pay much attention to what was happening on the far away side of the field, but one day he decided to take a well-deserved afternoon off and go for a walk. When he came to the side of the field where the second man was working through his lunch hour, he saw how little progress the man had made.

“Look at that,” he said. “He’s hardly done anything. He’s waiting for me to pick up the slack.”

He shook his head and walked away. “He’s just lazy and riding on my coattails.” He didn’t notice that the man had no tools to work with. It didn’t occur to him to share any of the shovels he wasn’t using.

The Overseer came back to check on progress. He visited the man digging with his bare hands, and he complimented him on his progress. “You have done well,” he said. The digger knew he had worked hard. He felt proud of the results of his hard work, even though he knew it wouldn’t look like much to others.

hand-tool

The Overseer went to visit the man with many shovels. That digger said, “Look at what I’ve done.” He waved an arm to show off the large area of ground he had worked. “I’ve done so much more than that guy over there.” He pointed to the small patch the other digger had worked on the opposite corner of the field.

“You have done well,” the Overseer said, “But do you think you might have a shovel to spare?”

Startled, the first digger replied, “Why, sure, I guess.” He’d never thought of that before. He looked down at the shovel in his hand. It had a sturdy handle, and it was just the right length. He really loved it. He didn’t want to give that one away, so he kept his favourite shovel. He gave the Overseer one he’d forgotten he even had out of the back of the shed.

The Overseer returned to the far side of the field and placed the shovel into the dirty and calloused hands of the second digger. The man held it out from his body, overwhelmed at first. He had never handled shovels, so it felt awkward. He didn’t think he deserved such a thing.

“Use it. It will help you,” the Overseer said.

Eventually the second digger gained confidence and became quite comfortable with the new tool. It worked so well for him, he even enjoyed some time off every once in a while.

  • There will always be people with more or fewer tools.
  • Don’t judge people who don’t have tools.
  • Don’t be afraid of tools; master them and they will help.
  • Everyone is worthy of tools.
  • Consider the needs of others and get them some tools, if you can.
  • Sometimes we don’t even realize that we have more tools than we really need.
  • It’s okay to keep your favourite tool.