“You shall eat the fruit of the labor of your hands; you shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.” – Psalm 128
As a teenager, I had a summer job in a nursing home kitchen, where my boss was Geraldine the cook, a tiny, perpetually aggrieved woman who seemed to me to be at least as old as the patients. That summer, she was counting the days until her retirement.
She was going to move somewhere in the South where it didn’t snow, and sit on her porch. She talked about this all the time, when she wasn’t complaining or yelling at me. It was her only conversation that was delivered without sarcasm, insult, or expletives. She couldn’t wait to escape the people she worked for—a pair of mean-spirited sisters who owned the home and had been her employers for longer than I’d been alive.
At the end of that summer, I would be going off to college. I was counting the days till my life started. So was Geraldine.
To her, Death coming to claim a soul in the night meant crossing a name off the breakfast list in the morning. “Dead,” Geraldine explained one day as she crossed somebody off. She seemed so old to me, I hoped she herself wouldn’t die before she could retire.
Geraldine was someone who could handle being angry for years and decades on end, and then one day wake up somewhere in the South and fulfill the words of the Psalm: “You shall be happy, and it shall go well with you.” And most importantly, this could happen before God crossed her off the breakfast list.
Whenever I seem to be perpetually aggrieved, let me consider Geraldine. Whenever I keep postponing joy, let me remember it’s never too late to reach out and grab it. Amen.
Christina Villa is Philanthropy/Communications Consultant at The Pension Boards-United Church of Christ, New York, NY.