Saturday, July 12, 2008
It's another beautiful day in the neighborhood. The fish are jumping and the sun is high and already so hot there's a haze all around its yellow-white orb.
The fishermen have been chugging out on their boats since about 5:30 this morning. You can almost feel their excitement about what they might catch today as they tend to their rods and reels and nets.
"Looks like a good day for fishin'" I called out to one of them.
"Don't get much better," he replied with a huge grin.
There aren't too many of us who get up in the morning to go to work and look forward with great anticipation and excitement for what the day will bring.
For many people, work is a means to an end. It puts food on the table and a roof over their heads, but not much more. It is back-breaking and soul-depleting, with no hope for respite until, perhaps, retirement when social security and a part time job at WalMart or as the night janitor at Papa Gino's gives you the means to take an occasional guided tour bus trip to Atlantic City or The Grand Ole Opry, or Washington, DC with other retirees.
For others, it goes beyond that to the kind and quality of food you put on your table and the opulence of the roof on the house in a particularly exclusive neighborhood where you park your special edition automobile after you've driven your kids to their excellent (if not private) school. It doesn't make your work any more meaningful, but it does make it more tolerable.
Well, most days, anyway.
I had a conversation the other day with one of the Baymen who was picking up a few supplies at "The Bait Shoppe" next to the little Mom and Pop place where I pick up my coffee and newspaper in the morning.
Can I just say that it is still more than a little disconcerting to know that the same guy who makes my coffee is also the one who runs The Bait Shoppe with the large sign out front that happily declares, "Worms! Fresh Worms!" right next to the sign on the Convenience Store in a similar style that says, "Coffee! Fresh, Hot Coffee."
Maybe that's why I always smell my coffee before I drink it.
I said to him, "You really love your work, don't you?"
"Yup," he said in that way that let me know that I'm not quite an idiot but politely enough to give me the very clear message that he wasn't about to get into a conversation about the obvious.
"It looks like hard work," I said.
"Yup," he smiled, probably thinking to himself, "Okay, she's really an idiot."
"What is it that you love about it," I asked, figuring at this point, what did I have to lose? I mean, he already thought I was a idiot.
"Well, I do okay," he said. "I'm not rich but my wife and my kids are okay." Then, he gave a sigh and, thinking that he'd put an end of the conversation said, "I'm content."
He obviously had no idea who he was talking to.
"Content?" I asked. I was intrigued by the word.
"Yup," he said, now no doubt thinking, "Hubboy! I gotta get me outta he-ya."
"You know," I pressed, "not too many people can say that about their work."
He turned and looked at me, resigned, perhaps, to set me straight. "Well, it's like this. The wife gets at me all the time cuz I don't go to church with her on Sunday. Says it's not a good example for the kids."
He spit out some liquid made brownish-yellow from the chewing tobacco under the front of his bottom lip before he continued.
"But, I look at it this way: I get to be with God every day. When I'm out there, fishing, making a living, I'm also real close to God. I pray everyday when I'm out there. And not just words. I talk with God. Tell 'im what I need. Ask 'im to be generous. And, he is. You know?"
"So, yeah. I'm content. I got the best job in the world. I'm not rich and I ain't never gonna be rich, but it's okay. It provides for my family and brings me close to God. It don't get much better than that."
"Yup," he said as he spit on the ground again, "Content. I'm content."
I smiled and thanked him as I offered a handshake. He seemed surprised and then pleased as he took my hand in his and then looked me in the eye and studied me for a few minutes.
"You're content too, ain't cha?"
"Yup," I said.
And we both laughed as he shook his head and got into his car and drove away.
Funny, isn't it? How we can recognize in others what we don't necessarily see in ourselves.
I wouldn't have used that word, but that, in fact, is what I am.
I've got the best job in the world. I work hard and often don't have a "daily catch" to show form my labor. I'm not rich, and never will be, but I do okay. It provides for my family and I get to talk with God every day.
And you know, it just doesn't get much better than that.
Except, perhaps, for a Bayman.