Unless they are exceedingly lucky, most authors, especially indie authors, must write part-time and work part-time at another job. That is because we don’t earn much from our writing endeavors, at least not enough to live on. We need that second job.
In case you’re wondering what type of job I do, or missed it when I did mention it, I am employed by First United Methodist Church in Somerville, NJ. I wear three hats: Assistant Minister, Director of Christian Education, and Communication Director. I got the last job title when the pastor decided we needed someone to oversee communications and recommended me to the church council. He figured that someone who is an author, a blogger, and familiar with social media must know something about communicating in the twenty-first century. He has great faith in me. There must be a God because I'm still doing that job, and all in 25-30 hours a week.
Let me tell you about my week.
Two years ago, one of our newer members, the wife of our music director, suggested that we get involved with Interfaith Hospitality Network. The program’s stated goal is “to empower homeless families to achieve and maintain independence.” It sounded like a good idea (it is), and we decided to be a host family once a week, twice a year.
The daily routine for people in the program looks like this: Adults receive training at the IHN Center and those are working go to their jobs each day. Children meanwhile continue to go to their schools. Every evening, the group is taken to the location where they will spend the night. Any religious organization can serve for a week as an evening and nighttime host. As a host, our church provides dinner, a place to sleep, and a lounge where families can relax, watch TV, and chat, and where their children can play. We offer a friendly face, someone who will converse with and listen to them without judgment, and who leave them alone when they just want to crash. Early in the morning, we give the families breakfast, help them pack a lunch, and they return in the IHN van to the center to start another day. At the end of the week, our families pack up and move to the next location.
This week has been our church’s turn. And that is why I’ve been in a rush to write my blogs (which do not like being rushed) and have been feeling more than the usual amount of pressure. One of the things I have learned about ministry is that what you expect usually is not what you get. This week is a prime example.
We had been told that we would have only a mother and a child staying with us, but that they would be departing Thursday morning, since she soon would be getting her own apartment and a big celebration was in the works for the weekend. Thinking we only needed staffing for Sunday through Wednesday, I contacted the Thursday-Saturday volunteers and told them to chill. I thought I had it all under control. I thought I was in the clear and didn't have to worry about recruiting volunteers to fill the empty slots at the end of he week that typically were hard to fill.
Boy, was I wrong.
Tuesday afternoon, I was at home and rushing to get lunch down my throat when I got a phone call from our coordinator.
Johanna: “Hey, Janet, we have an emergency.”
Me” “What? An emergency?”
Johanna: “Yep. We’re getting another family. A father, mother, and one-year-old son.”
Me (banging my head on the counter): “No, no, no, no, noooo!!!”
Johanna: “They’re coming tomorrow and staying through Saturday.”
Me (more head-banging): “Noooo!!!:”
Johanna proceeded to talk me down from the ledge. She's good at that.
Once I got a grip, I plunged into re-recruiting the people I had just un-recruited, not to mention working to fill the empty slots on Saturday.
Wednesday arrived. The two women in charge of dinner had been told to 1) cut back on the portions, since we only have one family; followed by an emergency call to 2) make more food, please!! Despite our having confused them, they showed up with enough to feed an army. It is a good thing food constitutes the third Methodist sacrament.
Our first family arrived as expected. Then we learned that the second family would be late because they were still cleaning out their apartment. No problem. We've got this. We fed Family #1 and she and the baby went off to do their thing upstairs in the lounge, while the rest of us waited for Family #2.
Later we were told that the new family wouldn’t be arriving until 7:30 or 8:00. Okay, fine. Again, no problem. We put the food away with plans to reheat it when they arrived. Then we waited.
Johanna was disappointed. She wanted to greet the new family, but a silent, looming pile of laundry was calling her home. She said she’d keep in touch.
We waited some more.
And some more.
Every so often Johanna would text us. “Are they there yet?”
You know how time can move so slowly when you’re waiting for something? That last hour felt like an eternity.
Finally, at 9:00 p.m. Johanna told us she would contact the person in charge at IHN to see what was up. And, by the way, her laundry was done.
By now, my dog had been alone since 4:15 and I was having visions of her sitting with her little legs crossed. Tippy's a good girl. She rarely pees or poops in doors, unless it's a dire emergency or something literally scares the poop out of her. But it was getting late, and I know she'd need to go out.
Fortunately, we had four people present: two evening hosts (who technically should have gone home) and two overnight hosts.
I was free to leave, but something in the back of my mind said: “I know the IHN van is going to pull in the second I walk out this door.”
I went out anyway, got in my car, started it, looked up, and…
Headlights were coming down the driveway.
It was the van.
I thought: "I have the magic touch! I should have left two hours ago."
Anyway, long story short, we got the new family settled. They were exhausted, and rightly so. Our crew welcomed them warmly, fed them dinner, and let them power down.
Now it’s Friday. As of yesterday, I still was trying to get folks to help, especially for that pesky Saturday shifts. Amazingly everything somehow, someway has fallen mostly into place.
And there you have it. A slice of my life.
This is what I do when I’m not writing or blogging. It is crazy, frustrating, funny, exhilarating, moving, and exhausting all that the same time. And you know what?
I love it.