Walking into the rec room of the Methodist Church brings some of my worst memories of childhood crashing forcefully to the front of my consciousness. Churches always smell a little funny, but then again so do large groups of people. It doesn’t help that I think alcohol based perfumes smell like chemical warfare. There are 60 or so people already milling about the room when I arrive and everyone is waiting to take home some free food. Monday nights are the food bank at the church. It took me a while to come here and accept the charity after I learned about the place from a friend who is also on hard times. As I stand there and chit chat the people I am talking to seem like the need the handout more than I do, but the parking lot is packed with new(ish) cars that are in the same or better condition as my own, so I think maybe I am just projecting my guilt at needing help. I argued with myself and talked about coming here in meditation, but it all came down to one thing. My family needs this food to make it right now. Finding work to sustain four people hasn’t panned out and my husband is still looking for work after we moved this past summer. Nothing has worked out the way I thought it would, but we are all happier now, oddly enough, even though we’re not as financially stable as we were where we were living before.
Everything I do comes down to my family and what they need. All of my work, mundanely and spiritually, ultimately allows me to be a better person for myself and for them.
So, I go to the food bank, run by Methodists and I bitch and grumble under my breath about it the entire way there and the whole way home. I think I would have fewer problems with going if it weren’t for the fact that they are the branch of Christianity I ran away from full tilt when I was a teenager. I feel like I shouldn’t take help from people who would condemn my way of life, but needs must. I go there and I feel Loki at my back.
Loki while I go down the line with my grocery bag collecting food off long tables: “Smile. Stand tall. Be gracious. This is fine. Things will be fine. Things are going to get better. Smile, damn it! I don’t care if that man is condescending, take notes. Never make others feel the same way.”
It took me until this past Monday-maybe my fifth trip to the food bank to realize that one: Things really are getting better for us financially. Things are not as horrible as I thought they were even though I lost my job, again, recently. And I’m learning a lesson in all of this. And two: This is a lesson. This is a BIG lesson for me. Something I swore I would never, ever do-stand in line at a food bank because I grew up poor and I was hell bound and determined to never need to do this-is exactly what I am doing now and perhaps what I need to be doing. (Here’s a hint, you probably shouldn’t do that-say you’re never going to do something arbitrary- because the Gods have a twisted sense of humor). I’m ripping out some of my elitist attitudes by their hair. I didn’t even realize I had elitist attitudes-I’m better than some people-rolling around in my head, but they were there. They aren’t so much anymore.
Hospitality and kindness is what this lesson is all about for me. Hospitality is a strange beast and something that is important in all realms. Kindness to strangers and friends alike is extremely important socially and interpersonally. If I can accept graciousness from people I don’t like, some who actually are condescending, I can learn to be gracious to everyone. I am changing the way I feel about these people on an individual level, which is bringing down my overall ire at Christianity, which wasn’t healthy since I live in a society surrounded by Christians.
When Loki came to me originally He told me, through guise as my muse, that He was looking for someone Queenly and Kind. Gracious and Kind. Graciousness is something I’ve never even thought to aspire to before in the dog eat dog world of academics I’d lived in. Academic living is very insular both thought wise (I tend to thrive on semantics and conjecture) and monetary wise (no one who is in school has much money, so everyone is okay with being half broke). Not that I am unfriendly or unkind, but I really wasn’t an open person on all levels. I would share the gift of my time and friendship, but in the end guard my heart rabidly against all comers. Over the years I have unwound and begun fixing this flaw in myself and now I’m getting that I need to be able to cross that bridge into the land of the non-pagans with my real self, as well as show my real self to those close to me.
It’s scary to think about talking about paganism or being a Lokean with a dyed in the wool Methodist. It’s scary to think about being truly, on all levels, kind to people I don’t know because who knows what they may do with that? Opening my heart and home is scary. I am swallowing this lesson and trying not to treat it like a bitter pill while honoring Loki, the god of thrift, with my continued acceptance of help when I need it and plotting how I will one day pay forward any kindnesses that I can.