A Wonderful Mess

I hate messes. I like things to look neat and tidy. I work much more efficiently when everything is in its rightful place. When I bake, I put the sugar away before I take out the flour. There may be piles of stuff on my desk, but they are neatly stacked. Unlike a former rector we all know and love, I'm not obsessive-compulsive about it - you might need a helmet when you open my closets to protect yourself from falling objects. If I don't see the mess, it doesn't bother me; close the door and it disappears. Which is why I've been going a little crazy at work this last month.

The Thanksgiving Food Drive put me over the edge. Bags all over the parlor. I was hoping that the shopping bags we provided would be when donations were given. But no . . . there were paper bags from The Grand, plastic bags from Jewel and Dominick's; big bags and even bigger bags; someone even had the audacity to bring in a box filled with groceries! And nothing was neatly bagged. People stuffed as much as they could in each bag. They were overflowing with canned and boxed goods, topped with loaves of bread and packages of napkins and paper towel.

Every morning, I would rearrange the bags, trying to make the mess more presentable. By mid-day, more bags would come in and the mess just kept getting worse. And I don't even want to talk about what was happening in the kitchen. All freezers were completely filled with turkeys. Fresh fruit and vegetables, butter, canned hams and a few fresh turkeys were crammed into the refrigerators. As long as everything fit into the freezers and refrigerators, I could close the doors and pretend the mess didn't exist. But when they filled up, bags of apples and onions, sweet potatoes and oranges were stored on the kitchen counters.

I was freaking out and so relieved when the volunteers arrived on the Monday before Thanksgiving to deliver the donations. Steve and Sarah Crawford, Jeff and Barbi Paine, Sean Flynn and Henry Shaw, Doug Stieber, Mark Swift and Connie Horner - six good-sized vehicles filled front to back with 200+ grocery bags and dozens of turkeys - had the unique pleasure of delivering Thanksgiving dinner to the families and the community serviced by the Primo Center for Women and Children in Chicago's Lawndale neighborhood. They were so grateful for the donations - and I was thrilled to get the parlor and kitchen back to order.

Now it's the Jesse Tree. The parlor will soon be filled with the mess created by the 121 Christmas gift donations for families at Connections for the Homeless in Evanston and 4th and 5th graders at Holy Family School in Chicago. I can just picture it now - all different sized, shaped, wrapped packages slowly, week after week until December 15, taking over the parlor until you can barely walk through it. And God forbid there is an oversized gift that only fits in one of those big plastic bags! Just thinking about it makes me twitch.

I overheard a parishioner, as she dropped off her Thanksgiving donations, tell Father Parkin that one reason they decided to join the parish was because of the generosity to and concern for the community. On behalf of all the recipients of your generosity, thank you for your wonderful mess. I'll learn to deal with it.