It has now been a good ten years and I feel this desire to unburden myself of secrets.
Anyway, there is little that any of you can do. You all live far away and most will treat my tale as a jest, so ironically even in the midst of confession, my secret is still safe.
We talked in the security of my office, the day before Thanksgiving.
He was a newcomer to our congregation. Pale and thin almost to the point of cadaverousness with eyes that burned with the fervent heat of fanaticism.
“Pardon the dust,” I said. “We’re remodeling the church.”
Intent as he was on his rant, he ignored me and the dust, though an occasional sneeze would interrupt his diatribe.
“I insist on addressing the church, this Sunday,” he said, his fist weakly pounding his knee as he spoke. “You shock me, pastor. And I am even offended!
“Last Sunday you spoke on Thanksgiving as a holiday, even a holy day. You let an opportunity to teach those gibbering simps about true holiness pass you by. Even now, they are out at the stores buying turkey and pumpkin and yams by the bushel so their unproductive elderly and their squalling brats can shovel food into their mouths.
“Well, what about the third worlders who today will only have corn bread? What about the fresh water porpoises? What about the labor practices in South America?”
I nodded in feigned sympathy. “Our church,” I explained, “places a large amount of its budget into charity. Though I confess we do not have a world impact, our local circle of influence is quite large.”
“Not enough!” he screamed. “Not enough! Do they still drive cars that burn gasoline? Do they still have their thermostats set above 60 degrees? Do they still eat meat?”
“Well, they are almost all hardworking farmers and have been for generations …”
“Soybeans! Soybeans make tofu! They could grow organic soybeans!”
“May we walk as we talk?” I asked. “I did promise to inspect the masonry work.”
“And why are we wasting money adding on to a building? This is certainly not a church that Peter and Paul would have attended!”
We wandered the dusty hallways to where the workers had stopped for the day and gone home for their Thanksgiving preparations. As my companion ranted and raved, I inspected a recently completed concrete wall.
“Forgive me,” I said casually interrupting my companion, “but I believe this work shoddy. Could you help me test it? Just stand there.”
I laced a steel chain through the eyelet of a restraining bolt, wrapped it around my companion, and passed it through the eye of another. A few moments work was all it took.
“What … what are you doing?” my companion stuttered.
“I believe that because of my bourgeois attitudes, I have driven these poor manual workers--nothing more than poor day laborers--to produce shoddy workmanship. Please tug on these chains. If their work is truly inferior, I can protect them and their reputation from the building inspector and they can still keep their jobs.”
My companion tugged on the chains. Years of fruitarianism and trying to gain sustenance by basking in the rays of the rising sun had weakened him to the point of not being able to put up much of a resistance.
“Well, they seem strong enough,” he said. “Now please release me.”
I picked up a concrete block and laid it on the tile floor in front of him. “You were talking about Thanksgiving. What should I do with the turkey and other comestibles my arrogant wife is preparing for my greedy family?”
Freshly primed, he launched into a plan to 24-hour drop ship the entire meal to the starving children of New Jersey with an ingenious contrivance of Styrofoam packing and dry ice.
I let him ramble on as I worked.
It was now five o’clock in the evening, and my companion still droned on how eating Thanksgiving turkey contributed to global warming.
Yet, my own task was drawing to a close. I had completed the eighth, the ninth, and the tenth tier of concrete blocks. I had finished a portion of the last and the eleventh; there remained but a single stone to be fitted and plastered in. I struggled with its weight; I placed it partially in its destined position. But now there came from out the niche a low laugh that erected the hairs upon my head. It was succeeded by a sad voice, which I had difficulty in recognizing as that of my noble, altruistic companion. The voice said --
"Ha! ha! ha! -- he! he! -- a very good joke indeed -- an excellent jest. We will have many a rich laugh about it during church -- he! he! he! -- over our chickory coffee -- he! he! he!"
"Thankgiving!" I said.
"He! he! he! -- he! he! he! -- yes, Thanksgiving . But is it not getting late? Will not they be awaiting you at home, your lady and the rest? I could treat you to some organic miso. Let us be gone."
"Yes," I said "let us be gone."
"FOR THE LOVE OF … "
"Yes," I said, "for love!"
I forced the last stone into its position; I plastered it up. Against the new masonry I put an old Sunday School flannelgraph. For the last decade no mortal has disturbed it.
The church’s janitor complains that for the last ten years on the eve of every Thanksgiving she finds a small paper plate with two Saltine crackers on it before the new wall they built in the education wing.
I simply shrug my shoulders.
So today, I hope that all of us, without guilt, will enjoy a hearty time of fellowship and food around a table bursting with celebration and groaning under the sheer weight of Providence. And that once a year, we taste a little of heaven and relax and enjoy the camaraderie and the closeness of loved ones in spite of our flawed humanity.
Especially my own flawed humanity.
But if you find yourself railing against this simple annual pleasure and your thoughts of disgust and self-righteousness and contempt mar the celebration for others, please come visit me and explain it all to me in detail.
Just forgive the dust in my office. We’re remodeling the church.