Tonight was a night to remember in the kitchen because nothing really happened. And it was a night I learned from my coworkers.
I shared the evening with Mitch, our line cook (and among the best read line cooks with whom I’ve had the privilege of working), and Arnaldo, our dish washer (whom I have written about before). Both of them are at stations in their lives where working part-time in our little kitchen is what they need to do. It was an average evening from a business standpoint, which meant we had time to talk as we worked, and time to get to know one another better.
Mitch is an avowed Bob Dylan fan and brought a CD of John Wesley Harding in for us to listen to as we prepped for dinner. In the process of the rambling discussion that followed about favorite Dylan songs, I learned that he sang at the March on Washington. Right after Martin Luther King, Jr. delivered “I Have a Dream,” he sang “When the Ship Comes In.”
A song will lift
As the mainsail shifts
And the boat drifts on to the shoreline
And the sun will respect
Every face on the deck
The hour that the ship comes in
We got off to a slow start, which meant Arnaldo had finished the pots and pans left from the afternoon prep and was with us on the line, because he makes the salads and desserts. I knew from talking with him before that he had some ship stories of his own, and that he had been in the Cuban Army and had been sent as a solider to fight in Angola back in the Seventies. He also had told me the reason he left Cuba was they wanted him to go and fight in Ethiopia, but he refused. Tonight, he was telling Mitch the story and he responded to Arnaldo by saying, “You were a part of the Mariel Boatlift?” (Like I said, Mitch is one well-read line cook.)
Arnaldo smiled. “You’re a smart guy, he said. I tell my story all the time and nobody in America knows about Mariel.” Between April and September, 1980, Cuba allowed people to come to the United States. (This is a really simplified telling.) One of the controversies was some of the folks Cuba sent our way were prisoners they wanted to get rid of. Arnaldo chose to come because they said they would imprison him for life for not being willing to fight if he didn’t leave. He knew nobody here, spoke no English, and came to Durham because of a sponsorship through a Presbyterian church. After a year, the sponsorship dried up and he was on his own. Now, almost thirty years later, he is washing dishes in our kitchen, showering us all with his indefatigable kindness, and singing Cuban songs as he goes about his work.
Earlier this week, my friend, Gordon posted a wonderful article on the essential impact of individual relational encounters. He words have hung on to me since I read them:
I tend to be a little suspicious when I hear someone refer to large, vague categories of people. We often speak of “the poor” and “the rich,” as though those groups had unionized and were meeting regularly to decide policy and organize action committees. “If only the rich would be more generous,” one person bemoans, while a another says, “If only the poor would take advantage of their opportunities.” I’ve got news for you. The rich and the poor will never act in one accord because there are no such groups. There are only people. Some are rich, some are poor, most are in between, and all of them are individuals. And in the end, I believe that loving individual people is our first and highest calling.
I came home tonight to words my blogging friend, Simon, shared as a part of his latest blog post, quoting Jurgen Moltmann “on the contemporary ‘distress of time’ and the advent of ‘homo accelerandus’”:
He has a great many encounters, but does not really experience anything, since although he wants to see everything, he internalizes nothing and reflects upon nothing. He has a great many contacts but no relationships, since he is unable to linger because he is always ‘in a hurry’. He devours ‘fast food’, preferably while standing, because he is no longer able to enjoy anything; after all, a person needs time for enjoyment, and time is precisely what he does not have.
I can recognize the accelerated being in myself far more quickly than I would like. My days fill up and drag on at a pace that make both my knees and my heart ache. With that in mind, I can do nothing better tonight than to make time for thanks. I am deeply grateful for an evening of discovery, sailing with the two of my crew around the room on the sea of conversation, fueled by the winds of music and memory, and the reminder that what truly saves us is sailing together.
P. S. — Here’s Bob.