This is the time of year that gave me fits as a young mother. With three children requiring costumes for the traditional Halloween party at school, costumes that could also be worn while they trekked up and down the streets of our neighborhood, the stress of Halloween was nearly my undoing each year.
However, even considering my lack of imagination and sewing skill, by the time the sun set each Oct. 31, I managed to convince them that they were the "best pirate ever" or made an absolutely adorable "bum" as I sent them out the door with strict instructions on which houses to avoid as they traipsed about, pillow cases in hand. (I do have one "well-done" in my Halloween credit account. The year Lisa wanted to be the Statue of Liberty, she actually won a prize at school. Not for the most impressive costume, but for the most imaginative. Oh. I guess that means the "well-done" is in her credit account, although I did do a bang-up job on the torch if I do say so myself. Aluminum foil is my friend.)
Nevertheless, whether pirate, bum or statue, the occasional pirate "Argh!" notwithstanding, under the costumes, my children were still my children, freckles, faults and foibles all intact.
Marcelene took early retirement, planning to spend her golden years with her husband, traveling the length and breadth of the United States in their brand new RV.
They never made it out of Colorado.
Late one night, they were following friends who had attended the same function they had enjoyed earlier in the evening, when the engine in the friends' van quit. Marcelene and her husband stopped and got out to push the van onto the shoulder of the road when another motorist crested the steep hill they had crested just moments before. He was unable to stop before rear-ending the van, crushing Marcelene and her husband between the two vehicles. She was killed instantly. Her husband succumbed to his injuries scant hours later.
Marcelene was one of my first trainers when I was accepted into the manager trainee program with the Child Nutrition Unit at Brighton School District 27J in 1988, and she had a no-nonsense, all-business personality. In all of the years we worked together, whether in the school kitchens, at manager meetings or school food service association meetings, she was simply Marcelene. Dependable, punctual -- seldom smiling -- Marcelene took her work very seriously.
Imagine my surprise, then, at her funeral when those who reminisced, spoke about someone named Marcy, who had a playful nature, a sunny disposition and loved traveling. They definitely knew a Marcelene, or rather a "Marcy," that I had never met. Apparently, she had clearly defined boundaries between work and play.
For the most part, this is a good business practice. My supervisor during my time with the school district became my good friend and ultimately my best friend, but I think we are the exception rather than the rule. Too often, friendship can blur the lines between supervisors and workers, with one or the other and sometimes both, taking advantage of the personal relationship in a professional setting. That's not good business and it wreaks havoc on the friendship. Nevertheless, I think I would have liked knowing Marcy, it sounds like she was a lot of fun to be around. I'm quite sure we would have managed to get lunch on the table in between laughs.
Workplace friendships, for the most part, are just that -- part of the workplace. When someone leaves, they perforce leave the friendships behind as well, in spite of well-intentioned promises to keep in touch, meet for lunch and call frequently. A new job, with new friends, quickly consumes the limited hours in a day and although warm greetings are exchanged at the happenstance meetings in the aisles of the local discount store, it's never the same.
But while we have them, they should be a treasured part of our day. I learned a lot from Marcelene those many years ago and although I never crossed the threshold that divided work from play in her world, I am grateful to have lived on at least one side of it and would have relished the other. Who knows what other boundaries may have fallen between us?
Although I have managed to acquire a working knowledge of office decorum, I'm still pretty much who I am, wherever I am. I don't speak a different language or operate under a different set of mores whether I am at home in my pjs or dressed for success in the office. Freckles, faults and foibles, it's all me.
The problem with costumes, especially on Halloween in this part of the country, are the inherent restrictions that come with them -- tripping hazards and blocked vision chief among them. Add to that, on too many Halloweens to count, the winter coats and snow boots required that also conspire to complicate what should be unfettered fun and harmless make-believe. More often than not, the children were relieved to abandon their borrowed persona and wash off the layers of make-up before counting the bounty in their pillowcase.
The costumes and masks we don each day before venturing forth are just as restrictive and have the capacity to do more harm than good, especially in the family of believers if the mask should slip or the costume tear. Above all else, believers are called to live lives of integrity, so that who we are here is who we are anywhere. No double standards, not one set of values for Sunday morning and a different set for Saturday night.
If we are to live the abundant life that Jesus brought to us, we need to take off the costumes of career, success and ambition. We need to remove the masks that hide our fears and dare to be who we are, where we are, with all of our freckles, faults and foibles.
"The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out." Proverbs 10:9 (NIV)
I don't have all the answers, but I know the One who does. Let's walk together for awhile and discover Him; together.