Monday, July 26, 2010

Peace Amidst the Panic

These have been an eventful last few days! They have been days in which my faith has been tested and where I have been blessed by some truly amazing moments that came across my path.

I came to work yesterday morning expecting a fairly leisurely day as I was assisting on a bike tour. Things were quickly thrown into turmoil, however, when one of the supervisors announced that all temporary employees are going to be cut at the end of the fiscal year on September 30. That, by my count, cuts 27 people including myself. That is half of the staff that works the sites, does bike tours, and makes the park actually work. It makes no sense at all, but apparently there are budget issues and that is what was announced from the higher ups. 

In addition it sounded like there are only going to be 20 permanent jobs announced and the announcement will go out to all sources, which means that I stand virtually no chance whatsoever of making it anywhere close to high enough for them to even see my name. This is very very different than anything that they have been telling us in the past. 

As can be expected these pieces of information threw things into great turmoil, and caused a great deal of angst for me personally because I have just signed a lease and committed to moving to a new house six weeks prior to that date. 

I was struggling to maintain any semblance of a good attitude and an optimistic view of things as I traveled to Jefferson after that announcement. I went into the library under Jefferson and encountered one of the other rangers, with whom I ended up talking for quite a while. It was a divine moment, just what I needed to curb the rising panic. There is no sense in worrying. We do not know what is going to happen.

I went on the bike tour, which was an exploration of the Walt Whitman in Washington during the Civil War. I contributed very little to the tour, but learned a great deal from the other ranger and was taken away from any other concerns. As we neared the end of the tour we were suddenly hit by a huge storm. It came out of nowhere and we had very little warning, but were able to take refuge under the overhang of the Hirschorn Gallery just as it hit in force. Apparently a tornado actually touched down near the city in Maryland. The force of the storm here was impressive to behold. And as it cleared a beautiful sky filled with layers and depth emerged before my eyes. In that moment I felt a great sense of peace, that everything would work out somehow.

I went home last night and watched the movie "we were soldiers," which I have been wanting to do since I started here. I was touched once again by the account of these men, especially John "Jack" Geoghegan,a young Lieutenant whose daughter Camille was born only 5 months before the battle for the Ia Drang Valley in November, 1965. In the battle Jack is killed trying to save Willie Godboldt, a member of his squad. It is a powerful moment in the movie and it gripped me enough that I decided to go and find his name on the wall this morning.

So early this morning I went out to the Vietnam Wall and located Jack's name amongst the other fallen soldiers of the 7th air cavalry. The wall meant something more to me this morning than it ever has before. There was a new understanding, and a new perspective of my own life that came with it.

All of a sudden my angst about my employment here didn't seem quite so important and I went to FDR this morning with a renewed spirit. It was well I did for as I walked through the memorial for the first time this morning I saw a family at the Japanese Pagoda on the south end, and just as I passed the boy asked why it was there. It was too good an opportunity to miss and I engaged them in conversation. Twenty five minutes later they continued on their way after learning about the cherry trees, the connection with Japan, the significance of the location of the FDR and Jefferson memorials, the connection between the men memorialized therein, and the connection between Jefferson and Adams. It was a wonderful interpretive moment.

Later on I gave a tour to two families in which I spent 75 minutes taking them through the memorial and speaking of FDR and the times in which he served. The peak came just before 4:00 though. Someone else was going to do the 4:00 talk and I was starting to think about leaving when a group walked up and the leader came and asked me if someone could guide the group through the memorial. I could have told them to wait ten minutes and another ranger would do it, but instead I told them I would take them right then. It turned out it was a group of 30 history teachers from Delaware and they had until 4:30 before they had to be back on the bus. Do I led a 35 minute impromptu tour through the memorial for 30 history teachers, feeling very self-conscious as they would be sure to catch any mistake or error in my speech. Apparently I did alright as they were all very happy and appreciative at the end. I walked away thinking that these kind of moments are exactly why I am here.

When I got back to the ranger station I sat down at a computer to look for other jobs and check email before going to church and one of the supervisors walked in. I decided it was a perfect opportunity to ask more about this termination and the permanent cert. She had a very different understanding and said that it was only the summer temps that would have to be cut by that date. She also said (as I thought) that it would be impossible to run the park if they cut all of us, and (again as I thought) there is no way this permanent cert will clear and result in new people until much later. So she thinks we will have to be kept longer. It is still unclear what exactly is going on, what this permanent cert will look like, or when it will be released, but as I sit here at this moment I am reminded of the futility of worry and the power of faith and trust. So I will have faith, and I will trust that there are higher powers at work and things going on that I cannot see and if God wants me here in this place, somehow or other it will work out. If he does not, then I will come to understand that when I need to know it and not to worry in the meantime.

Enjoy the moments as they come and appreciate the value of each opportunity and of life itself. There is no better way to live.

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