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.