birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Saturdays at the Office

Pastor Anderson called it a babysitting job. At 14 years old, I needed to secure a social security number, and agree to be paid $.50 per hour to tend the church office from 9:00 – 3:00 every Saturday. Babysitting children paid $.35 an hour, so I jumped at the chance to earn more money. My duties included answering the phone, folding church bulletins and delivering them as advertising to the apartment building across the street. I learned to brew a pot of coffee to be available when a church member wandered in to chat or when a committee held a meeting. When the local florist delivered flowers for the Sunday service, I opened the doors and indicated their placement at the front of the sanctuary.

I usually brought along my homework or a book to read when the hours grew longer than the immediate tasks. Then the pastor discovered that I had learned to type. I began typing thank you notes from a formulated template, then newsletter articles for the Lutheran Orient Mission. Eventually he handed me an electric dictaphone with instructions for listening to his recorded letters as I typed them out in draft form and then finalized them on church stationery. At the end of the afternoon, I’d bring the letters to his office for signatures, then address them for mailing. I became a secretary.

I worked as the Saturday Secretary for three years, until my sister was old enough to take over the babysitting job. What did I learn and what did I earn? I learned a little about office work, being reliable, friendly and efficient, and I learned to be a better typist. I guess I’ve used those office skills, and I certainly spent my meager earnings, probably on Seventeen Magazines and cherry cokes at Muller’s drugstore. But I also learned some surprising and even embarrassing things about people. I learned that Mr. Smith, whose daughter was in my class at school, had left his family. I learned that Miss Jones, pregnant unmarried, was planning to give her baby for adoption to Lutheran Social Services. I learned that Mr. Larson had lost his job and needed to borrow money from the church to pay next month’s rent. Finally I learned that the work of the church was more than collecting the offering on a Sunday and placing flowers at the altar.

A Couple of Dollars on a Good Day

Bobby the Mac