Saturday, July 31, 2010

Greater Meaning Amidst Confusion

What a difference a few days can make!  These last few days have taken me on a very interesting journey that has been greatly encouraging and proven once again to me the power of faith and of the reality of God's sovereign plan, not only for my life as an individual, but for my part in the larger story of his creation. What has happened to draw such statements from me you ask? Quite a lot actually. It is funny how quickly a perspective can change and how much that shift can transform the way we view the world around us. I am keenly reminded once again that what we get out of life is largely a result of the way we approach it. 

When last I wrote I spoke of the official announcement that all temporary employees were to be terminated on September 30. This morning when I reported for roll call the presence of all year term employees (of which I am one) were requested in a meeting with a different supervisor. She proceeded to tell us that the aforementioned announcement was erroneous and that only those individuals being paid with centennial money (which I am not) are being cut, and the rest of us should be kept on for the duration of one year, or very close to it. So I just went from being cut on September 30 to potentially being employed in this position until Jan 2. That is a big difference! She also gave us some additional information about the permanent cert. It is likely going to be released in early September (which is what I had thought back in May) and will probably be for 18 positions. It is going to be released to all sources though, which means I will be competing against people from all across the nation. She did say that they really want to keep as many of us as possible and are going to do everything within their power to do so, but that is not an especially positive situation for someone in my position. Still, there is a possibility, and that is reason to hope! She also said that there is a possibility that some of us could be renewed at the beginning of next year, which means that even if I do not get one of the permanent jobs, I might still be able to stay on in the same capacity. It was some very encouraging news on the whole!

After we were dismissed I began to walk out the door when the aforementioned supervisor requested that I stay behind. I have felt like she has unfairly targeted me in the past and I figured she wanted to bring up some issue and reprimand me about something because that is generally the only reason she would be speaking to me. You can imagine my surprise when the words that came out of her mouth were to tell me how good of a job that I was doing, to tell me that she had noticed, to tell me that the superintendent of the park has noticed (largely due to what he is now referring to as "Garrett Radke fan mail" which keeps showing up on his desk) and that she personally really wanted me to be able to stay in a permanent, or at least longer term capacity. I was nearly struck speechless, as it had not even entered my mind that she would ever tell me anything of the sort. She must have seen my confusion because she went on to say that she recognized that she had never told me that before and that she wanted me to know. Now that was an encouragement!

And it was not only that. Two days ago I was working on trying to figure out special programs to do in September (the due date for submitting any such programs was today) and one of the top rangers at the park was in the room with me. He turned to me and told me that he and one of the other rangers were talking about the top ten temporary/seasonals (about 30 people) they would like to see come on as permanent and that my name was on the list. He paused a moment, and then went on to say that, actually my name was on the top of that list. 

Today I went in early to do the wall washing which meant I got off early. I had noticed that this same ranger and the ranger I am doing my "birth on a nation" bike tour with in a couple of weeks (the two rangers that I most respect, find to be the most knowledgeable, and that are the model of what interpretation should be in my opinion) were doing a bike tour on the bonus march in Washington in 1932 today. It is a topic I knew little about and I knew with those two rangers it was sure to be interesting, so I went on the tour as a civilian. It was awesome. It made me realize how much better I can do at what I am doing and inspired me to keep striving to do anything I can to do this job well. 

Yesterday the director of the bike program came to me and told me that he was going to be unable to do the bike tour on the burning of washington this year. He has done this tour with the latter ranger mentioned above for the last six years on the anniversary of said burning. He was not simply telling me he couldn't do it though. He went on to ask me if I would be interested in taking his place. I talked to the other ranger about it today and he told me that he would rather have me with him than anyone else in the park. So I am going to be co-leading a four hour bike tour on the burning of Washington in 1814 on August 22. Included in the group on the tour that day will be several representatives of different organizations who are connected with the war of 1812 who want to see what it is that we do on the mall so that we can work together for the 200th Anniversary of the war which is going to be starting in about a year and a half.

Yesterday I was working at Jefferson and had fascinating conversation with several different people and gave two 75 minute talks. Both of these programs included a great deal of information that I had learned in Philadelphia last week as well as from my recent reading of "John Adams." I especially enjoyed relating the story of the drama that unfolds on July 1 and July 2, 1776, culminating in the arrival of Caesar Rodney, who has ridden 80 miles through the night to arrive in the doorway of congress "booted and spurred" and splattered with mud just in time to swing the vote of Delaware in favor of Independence. These two programs were amongst the best I have ever given. During the first one I had every person in the memorial (about 35) gathered around me for a while. But as significant as those moments were, the highlight of the way came when an 11 year old girl asked me if I could give a talk to her family. I readily agreed and was soon speaking to them. The family consisted of 8 people, the two parents and six others (not sure if they were all their children) ranging from about 6- 24 years of age. I began giving my standard intro but was quickly interpreted by the 11 year old asking me a question. I was quickly diverted again by the 6 year old boy asking me how they got the top stone on the top of the Washington Monument (seriously, what six year old thinks of that?!?!) and it just kept going from there. This was absolutely the most well educated family I have ever spoken to. I was floored by the questions they were coming up with. They taxed my knowledge about the city, the park, politics, and American history in general. We covered a myriad of topics in a constantly changing conversation that grew ever more fascinating to me as it went on. Finally mom said they had to leave in order to get down to the capitol to make their tour, and then asked if I could go with them and continue to explain things to them along the way because I had done such an admirable job. 

I could go on, but I think you get the idea. What a shift from what I was feeling just a few days ago! And a good thing to as I have now managed to commit myself to quite the lineup of programs in the next two months. Here are the special programs/events I am participating in or leading in August and September as of today...

August 1- Washing the Korean Memorial 

August 6-8-Vietnam reenactment

August 15-"Birthing a Nation" bike tour (I am leading completely)

August 22-"Burning of Washington" bike tour (co-leading)

September 4- Washing the Vietnam Memorial

September 5- chit chat run on the "summer of '63" (focusing on three key battles in July, 1863 and how they changed the course of the Civil War)

September 11/19- "Moments the defined a revolution" (special program on five key events in the American Revolution that occurred in September including the battle of Brandywine on Sept. 11 and the surrender of Saratoga on September 19--hence the reason for the program being on those days if you didn't make the connection!)

September 13-"The stars and stripes forever"-performing a slightly modified version of the vignette I helped write and perform for the 4th of July on the anniversary of the British attack on Ft. McHenry in 1814

September 17/18-"The import of a dispatch: special order 191" (special program about the battle of Antietam done as Chamberlain)

September 25/26-"Preserving the spirit of the frontier" (modified version of my campfire program from Wind Cave with a much greater emphasis on Thomas Jefferson and Lewis and Clark)

It is going to be a busy couple of months and that means I am going to be having to do a tremendous amount of research and preparation to get reading for all of these programs, but I think it will be worth it. :) 

I also worked at the Washington Monument the morning after the FBI received a phone call from threatening to blow it up the next day. Thankfully that did not take place, and I even got to run people out early because of a crazy thunderstorm that came up out of nowhere! 

You never know what to expect going to work at the national mall. 

Living in dangerous wonder...

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