Tag Archives: American work ethic

That Good Part.

According to reports Judge Robert Sambroak was bedridden, under hospice care, the week I stood in line at the Post Office awaiting my appearance at small claims court. It couldn’t have been he, therefore, standing to my left as I prattled my anxieties, commenting: “ You feel irrelevant…” Yet, whomever that man was he did seem placed there for a purpose, like so many who found themselves in line at the South Erie Station. There was something about that gathering, a Federal office no less, which brought about the most unlikely convergences.

I had awakened this morning, Friday, with a passage of Scripture running across the ticker of my frontal lobe. The scene was Jesus, Mary at his feet in place to absorb his every word. Martha, her sister, bustled about the serving, taking care of the practical concerns that the presence of such a significant house guest likely entailed.

Jesus had spoken to Martha. She had complained to him, regarding her sister’s apparently passive position on the floor near Jesus as he sat teaching, beseeching him to implore her to help. He’d said: “Martha, Martha, thou art careful, and troubled, about many things; but, Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken from her.”

On such a Friday, after a week of arduous preparations, mine musical, tasks requiring repetition and drill, analysis, experimentation, and more drill, muscles tired, mind absorbed with the complexities, how was it that I had been awakened by this Scripture?

My mother was a task master. Rather, she mastered tasks like no other. Machine operator at a local manufacturing shop, her “piece work” tally always exceeded the rest of the workers’, a fact which isolated her from them. Yet, she pressed on, tirelessly, determined to produce above and beyond expectation. This was the American work ethic, nobly represented by the then-dominant working lower middle class, and my mother was at the top of the heap of the “We can do it!” women of her age.

But, it wouldn’t be until many years beyond adolescence that I would become aware of another aspect of my mother. Also a professional seamstress, she worked out of our home and, that, late into the evenings after much of the rest of the house had retired for the night. Our younger brother, however, one inclined to drive his latest, favored car until all hours, would often keep her awake well after she had stopped the treadle on her Singer sewing machine. Myself having taken a job as waitress in a local dinor I would often work two shifts, entering the house at odd hours; it was at just one of these junctures that I met my mother, seated in the kitchen at the table.

She wasn’t just having coffee. She was poring over her Bible.

Our mother, in dark green robe, would sit up waiting for our brother to return home, and read Scripture. Not neglecting those moments of reflection, of seeking counsel, of meditation and contemplation, she was effectively both Martha and Mary. Whether she read to calm her nerves or occupy her thoughts, mum sacrificed for the family all day and then sought that good part, for herself.

Judge Sambroak passed away, yesterday. He’d served the courts of Erie County more honorably than any other – advising even opposing counsel, entering the schools to set up “mock courts” – representing all that was good about the law. Like the Judge, mum’s life was cut short decades before she was likely intended to depart us, her body exhausted by the toxic overload the local environment had bestowed. But, she had lived her life with the kind of integrity that would, as the decades passed, become increasingly rare.

So, today might be yet another Friday. One more week in the life may be history, but I exhort us all to take that pause. The world is spinning, faster and apparently more recklessly by the minute, rendering our reality more unpredictable than ever before. If we seek that good part, one thing is as certain as the voice which intoned the words; Jesus said it shall not be taken from us. Seems like a worthy treasure, indeed.

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© Ruth Ann Scanzillo  3/3/17   – All rights those of the author, whose name appears above this line. Thank you for respecting the work of all writers, both recognized and unknown.

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