When I was a little girl, one of the things I would get to do was to go and stay the night at my maternal grandparent's house. They lived out in the county and it was all there for my enjoyment. They would pick me up and we would go out to eat at Jackson's Bar B Que. That was a big deal then because eating out was not the norm. They always kept a big tub of Schwans Ice Cream in the freezer and bought bottled coke. Those were BIG TREATS . My grandmother also let me watch Night Gallery. That was such a forbidden thing and I loved it! I was easily spooked as a child and that series totally did me in. The theme music could cause me to flinch but I was hooked. My parents would have never allowed their fraidy cat child to have watched it but my grandmother did. I think she felt like I was her partner in crime. She also let me read True Confessions that she picked up at the hairdressers. Total soft porn for a 10 year old. That is a different story for a different time.

One of the scariest episodes that I ever remember watching was The Sins of the Father with Richard Thomas...who later because John Boy Walton. The episode aired in 1972 so I had to be 10 at the time and maybe that is why it made such a big impression on me. It dealt with a Welsh custom of sin eating. When a person died, it was the custom for a feast to be prepared and laid out on top of the corpse. The sin eater would come in and eat all of the food. In the eating of the feast, the sins were taken upon the eater. Thus, the dead person was able to enter into Heaven clean and sin free. In the episode, Richard Thomas ends up having to be the sin eater for his father...who had been a sin eater for years. The son has to take on all of those sins so that his father can pass on clean. He was horrified but does the job...he has no choice. He is condemned to the life of eating sins that he has not committed himself.

The last few weeks at work have been hard. We are all tired and a wee bit burnt out. People have all sorts of problems that I have never even dreamed of having. In my opinion, people's addictions are rising at an alarming rate. Every one has problems. Big problems...little problems....real problems...imagined problems. They all line up and come and sit in the blue chair across from my desk and tell me their problems. Some I cry with. Others I try to help them see the big picture. Some figure out answers as soon as the problem is out of their mouth. It sounds totally different spoken than it does running around all alone in the brain. One I even threw out of my office because of the names that she insist on calling me because her problems are all due to me in her head. But they still come. Day after day. All the while keeping a calm look on my face so that they do not see how freaked out or horrified I am on the inside.

Yesterday I spoke at length with a woman whose son has been in prison since the age of 16. I sat here helpless as she bawled. I also spoke with a man who told me his life story. And how chapters that occurred years ago caused him to react in ways that were not appropriate in the here and now. A man who, if he were physically able, would turn back the hands of time and change things. Things cannot be changed. People have a hard time with that. I was literally drained when I went home.

Last night as I was trying to drift off into sleep, the old Night Gallery episode of the sin eater came to the front of my mind. It dawned on me that, those of us that deal with people day in and day out are just like the sin eater. The premise is still the same. We are the burden eaters.

We let people unburden themselves in a safe environment and that is a very very good thing. I love that my job allows me to help people like that. They leave feeling lighter. The problem is still there but they have a plan or a new outlook on it. Some do not change and will bring that same problem back time and time again.

Those of us that are behind the desk, pulpit, check-out counter, hot-line, etc. are left with the burden. We have swallowed it whole and now we carry bits and broken pieces of that with us. This is not to say that I want out or that I am whining. I am not. I am just trying to make sense of some things so that I can make things better or easier. How do you balance the dirty sharp shards with the light? How do you, as Rachel put it when we were discussing it this morning, go behind the barn and throw that all up?

...who is thankful, ever so thankful, that her life is good and sweet despite the potholes.


  1. This hillarious about your grandmother. My maternal grandmother got me started on Harlequin Romances which ARE porn to a 10 year old. My paternal grandmother barely let me watch Little House on the Prairie.

    I throw it all up by going outdoors. I walk by the lake, I lay down under the trees and listen to the birds. I hug and cuddle with my precious cat Turco. Or get a sloppy wet one by little E or H2.

    I'm sorry you've had a rough week. There's always Jello wrestling.

    Word Verification: scent. Seriously, I do not lie.

  2. love this. you've really hit the mark with the sin-eater idea.

  3. Anonymous9:17 AM

    Good stuff, Mindy.

    I reached a point of saturation and couldn't go on - I'm not sure how you do it!


  4. I think that the only way that I can "Throw up" is through religion. If I couldn't "cast my burdens" and had to keep them all....I'd explode.

  5. You've really named it, Mindy.
    What works for me is having trusted colleagues with whom I can unload (and receive their unloading in return). People who are more introverted may prefer another means: prayer or meditation, for instance. Vigorous exercise (not that I do it these days) also can be therapeutic. But I think the act of sharing something, and getting it out of our own heads into a mutual space, matters a lot.

  6. OMG - I remember Night Gallery. Not that I'm willing to state how many years ago! LOL.

    What a cool relationship to have with your grandma. But then again...isn't that what grandparents are supposed to do? Torture your parents, then let the grandkids 'run wild'? My mom certainly thinks so :-)

    Sorry to hear that work is so stressful for you. That's why I quit working in a law office (bankruptcy). My heart bled for most of them but the rest drove me stark raving MAD!!!!!!!!!

    Remember that you can only do the best you can do. Listening, knod, sympathize because that doesn't cost anything BUT you can't take it personally. Don't internalize it or try to make sense of it.

  7. Grandmothers are the best!

    I dine on sins only once a week, you do it 5+. I don't know how you manage, because it's exhausting work. But perhpas the task was given to certain individuals for reasons God alone only knows.

    You expressed it beautifully...hang in there, those people need you!

  8. I thank God for people like you who do the work of God's Kingdom every day in such compassionate and wise ways.

  9. Ditto QG!

    Your grandmother was the best. I loved Night Gallery too.

    Thank God for you and Rach and the job you guys do. I believe crime would be far far worse without you guys. Making sense of it is survival for sure.

    You must have just the most amazing spiritual immune system.

  10. First off your Maternal Grandmother was Crazy Mc Loonypants. I know too many stories.

    As for how you do this...I have no idea. I could not do your job. I would have told people off along time ago...~wonders why she didn't go into law enforcement~

    It would be hard. Mojo isn't the right word for what I am going to say, but bad mojo is hard to get rid of, and hard to shake off. I think that is why postal workers go...well...postal. Love you!

  11. P.S. My Maternal Grandmother has never given me porn of any kind. I am just saying.

  12. Such a privilege to see into your heart Mindy...

  13. Dear lovely Mindy
    This was a special post. I love those memories of your subversive grandmother - and I'd forgotten the idea of the sin eater.

    The world is so blessed by the care that you your willingness to hear and share all that misery...But if you soak it up like a sponge you will surely go under. I'm with Songbird - you either need a safe space to do your own dumping (something like the supervision system that counsellers/mental health professionals have to have in place here in the UK at least) or to be able to place the whole lot in a metaphorical basket and lob it in a Godwards direction.
    If you try to carry it all yourself, you'll break your back...
    Love, hugs and a few prayers for good measure

  14. Love the stories about your grandmother!

    As well as talking to friends to let go of the "sins" of others, I also go to spiritual direction.

    What has gotten me through especially trying times of hearing other's burdens was praying for them and knowing that God will care for them. I know this sounds like a platitude but this has helped me immensely.

  15. Mindy,
    My Grandma always had Schwann's ice-cream in her freezer! The plastic buckets. Grandma has been gone almost 3 years, but I still keep catfood in one of those buckets.
    And, my Grandfather had the small bottles of coke. He always claimed the small bottles were "better." :-) And of course, I believed him. I never had pop on any regular basis and we never ate out, either. I know kids today would never believe that.
    I don't remember that episode of that show...but what you describe is so yucky and yes, it does sound similar to what you and your collegues are doing.
    My brother is in jail and will be there for probably 6 months. He has been arrested 4 times in 2 years. This last time he was arrested, he was on probation for another arrest- so there he sits. I do not know what to say to him.
    Last time I tried to talk to him (a LONG time ago,) he told me he didn't have any problems and was on top of it. yeah, right.
    I am so thankful for people like you who do a job of listening and helping to redirect. I can only imagine that it would be a horrible burden deep down inside. I know the last time my mother called me to tell me of my brother's most recent arrest and incarceration, I felt sick to my stomach.
    HUGS and Love to you,
    Cheryl in IN

  16. I love you and I think you are a HERO!!!!!!!!

  17. at the risk of coming off as a cold-hearted witch with a capital B... uhm i think the deal is to not let ourselves become the sin eater. only jesus can do that i'm afraid.

    our role or job or calling is not to ingest what they urp up on our desks, our living rugs, our shoes, in our coffee, on my dog when i'm walkin' him... we listen. we pray silently (and not so silently). we aid, assist, guide... but whatever the sins of the person, the woes of their lives, the emotional vomit that is left in their wake... we don't have to nor should we incorporate that into our hearts...

    hard lessons. *pound head on desk* i'm still learning this myself... i paint. i exercise. i protect my private space/world from folks. i must find ways to tune out the world which is wacked out... big time. i read silly books - read "finger lickin' 15" by janet evanovich? pick it up. grab some wine. it'll make ya laugh good!

  18. Must be a thing about grandmothers and True Confessions... mine always left a stack in my room at her house where I spent nearly every minute of summer vacation until I graduated high school.
    BabyG I am with you; I'd never be able to not just tell those people your mom deals with how stupid they are for being in the messes they're in,

  19. Blog surfing and found you.
    I understand your sin eater post. I felt like everyone's momma when I was working as a Bail Bondswoman.
    Mostly I dealt with the family: the tears of wives, husbands, children, mothers & fathers. I could feel the pain of these people as if It were my own.

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  21. In one of my previous incarnations, I was a customer service rep for Blue Cross. Talk about people barfing all over you! The worst of it was that the supervisors sat up nights trying to think of ways to make the job harder.

    One call I remember particularly was a man who came on my line breathing fire, and giving me information way too quickly, and a lot of it was stuff I didn't need. I asked him to please slow down and let me catch up. "Well, I'm not a expert on this. I don't know what you want."
    "I can understand that, sir, but I *am* an expert, so let me ask you what I need to know, and then if there's anything else you want to tell me, we can get to that."
    A very grudging, "OK".
    Well, it turned out his wife had cancer - and he was a doctor. I handled the call, and then told him I understood how upset he was. "As a doctor, if you'll pardon the expression, you can't bullshit yourself. You see what's coming, and there's no way to sugar coat it."
    We were both near tears when we finished the call. I "got" what he was going through, and listened to a lot of stuff that wasn't really part of the call, but he left my line happier than when he came on to it, and even though I got cited for taking too long, I knew I had really done my job.

    I used to come home and bake bread. Three days a week I would beat and pound and flip that dough this way and that. One for you and one for your dog and one for your ugly brother! It relieved tension, built muscle, and we ended up with something good to eat.

    I agree with Kathryn - put you problems in a mental box or basket and make a mental picture of tossing it up in the air. God is awake all night, but He can't fix things if you don't take your hands off of them. Every time you start to worry about something, push the box skyward again.


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