This past weekend, Linda and I traveled to Del Norte, CO to celebrate my brother’s wedding. He and his partner, Stan Tucker, live in Fort Worth and are active members of FUMCFW, but have a second home in CO. Their wedding took place in a small UCC Church, where they are affiliate members, in the picturesque mountain town of Creede.
We arrived in Del Norte, about 35 miles outside of Creed, an hour away from the Rehearsal Dinner, when the instrument panel in my Mini Cooper Countryman indicated a flat tire. Del Norte is a small southern Colorado town in the San Luis Valley at the foot of the San Juan Mountains along Highway 160. Its population is about 2000 people and they have one tire/inspection/auto repair shop. We pulled in at 4:30, 30 minutes before closing.
Mini Coopers are equipped with “run flat tires”, so they don’t carry “spares”, the idea being of course that you can drive on a run-flat tire for maybe 50 miles or so, in the city, to your nearest, specialized Mini Cooper tire dealer!
I walked into Ken’s Tire Center and Auto Repair, a one-garage, two-room building, and waited 15 minutes as the woman at the shop desk (Ken’s wife) was chatting with a local whose radiator had been repaired.
“Never would have got that leak if Frank had gotten up the county road with his grater and smoothed out the rocks like he’s supposed to every 3 months,” the man laughed. “Big, sharp rock just jumped up and poked a hole in my radiator.”
“Guess Frank should pay for this repair,” Ken’s wife laughed. I’m looking at my watch realizing we have 45 minutes to get 35 miles up the mountain road into the Creed. Another customer comes in at that moment.
“Hey, Bill, whatcha get done on yer truck?”
“Frank didn’t get up your road?”
“Naw. You, too?” They both laugh. Meanwhile, Ken’s wife gives me a polite “I’ll be right with you glance” and enters back into the conversation.
“You know, I think Frank’s wife is due to deliver her baby pretty soon. They’ve been pretty busy,” she adds to Frank’s defense.
Linda is sitting in the chair behind me and says, “Maybe we better call Mike or Stan and let them know we’re gonna be late.” I assure her we’ll have this fixed in no time and be there before things get started.
The two customers continue their conversation about radiators and the weather as another woman comes in to ask about picking up her car and the conversation shifts to her kids’ first week at school.
“I hear we’re getting a new campus next year!” Ken’s wife exclaims. “Guess we’re all paying for that one,” she smiles.
“Yeah,” the young woman chimes in. “But you know the state matched our property taxes with another $25 million! That’s gonna be a real nice campus for our kids.”
I’m really happy to see how friendly this place is. Really. I am. But I look at my watch and 15 minutes have passed, and Ken’s wife finally addresses me, “Honey, what can we do for you?”
I tell her about the flat (probably from the rocky road on the way up to Mike and Stan’s place now that I thought about it…). She smiled and said there’s a lot of that going around and then asked me what kind of car. When I say, “Mini Cooper,” she gives me a long stare and a kind of “bless your heart” smile and then says, “You know, I need to get Ken.”
An hour or so later, a new tire is on order from Miami and will arrive in 3 days (Monday), several people have offered to take us up to Creed. But Ken has the tire plugged, opens my car door for me and adds, “I wouldn’t drive this more than 50 miles or so before replacing it. Better have someone follow you.” He wishes us good luck and says he’ll see us Monday morning.
Long story short, we made it to the rehearsal, an hour late. We borrowed a car for the rest of the weekend. The wedding at the little Creed Congregational Church was beautiful and the weekend with family and friends from around the country was a special and memorable time.
But the tire never came in Monday morning (“I’m not sure why that order didn’t go through,” Ken’s wife said, apologizing for the inconvenience. “We could get one here by Wednesday.”)
So we took our chances on a plugged tire, drove 3-4 hours to Santa Fe and got one at a dealership there. We were only 3 hours late to our church staff retreat on Tuesday near Graham, Texas. The drive along I-40 (the old Route 66) across NM at night was pretty spectacular, illuminated by a full moon in front of us and lightning from a desert storm off to the South.
All along the way, all weekend, of course, we met people working at their various jobs — from the pastor officiating the wedding to Ken’s family at the tire shop, to the wait staff and chefs and park rangers and auto mechanics in CO, to the salespeople and serviceman at the Santa Fe Mini dealership, to the clerks at the quirky Clines Corners truck stop in NM, to the First UMC family and friends who own and work the amazing Rocker B Ranch where our staff retreat took place this week near Graford, TX!
All along the way, it seems like labor was most meaningful and inspiring where love (and connection and conversation) was present. Honestly, it’s what made our trip the most interesting, too.
This Labor Day Sunday I want to think with you about labor and love, about love as a labor of love. Work and play are often spoken of as two separate realities… we work and we try to make time to play. But we encounter people every day, even as they encounter us, in the context of our work and our play, and something about how we labor and love in those encounters truly inspires the moment, I think. Or as Martin Buber, the Jewish theologian might say, our encounters with one another open us to a sacred kind of meeting with God.
I hope you can join me Sunday as we listen to some great music from our amazing Brad Thompson (this year’s Star-Telegram Best Musician in North Texas!) and the Revolution Band and think about vocation, life, and worship — as a labor of love.
Associate Pastor of eleven:eleven