Answer a Call

It would be great if every vacation church school produced a few altar calls.  The energy is there.  Singing, dancing, kids on fire with love and fun.  Line leaders, tie-dye’s, three gallon pots of franks and beans. No Episcopal Hymnal – no, it’s “He’s Got the Whole World In His Hands,” and “Deep and Wide” that invites fun. The message is in that energy.  VCS shouts. Depth comes at another time.

What comes of it, though, is something different and maybe just as important.  It is a week where busy people stop, shift gears, and work together to create a space for a community of compassion and love.   I take care of your children, you take care of mine.

I spent this week shepherding the Red Lions.  My lions were three and four years old.  It is a long week.  Most nights, we left after 10 pm.  Even as I drive home, those children are still there.  In fact, my body is scented with the dirt of nine children. My tie-dye t-shirt is soiled with the stray remnants of sandboxes.   Crushed mosquitoes litter my forearms, ankles and neck.  I’m tired. I want a Big Gulp. I’ve spent too many nights this week picking up half-and-half at the BP, children asleep in the minivan.

The refrain of a VCS song echoes in my ears:

you never really know when you are ready to serve

you never know when its time to follow a call

but when its the minute that you least expect it

he’s gonna call us all.

Let me warn you: If you shout such a song several times a night, usually while pulling a child down from the top of a pew, then you will not forget the words, at least for a day or so.

Tonight is Wednesday, probably the high point of my exhaustion and the fourth consecutive late night drive back down 15-501.  It is in that moment of weakness that I hear a new call.

You may have heard it.  If you have, you have heard it for what seems like an unending eon.  It is a call that does not go quietly.  It goes for entire weeks.

It is the call of the local, progressive, and secular: the call for more pledges at WUNC.

Tonight, Dave Brower is extolling us, during this, the last day of the on-air pledge drive, to consider making a special one-time contribution.

“Because corporate support has fallen off,” he adds.  As if anyone wants to cover for corporations.

I can hear a phone ringing in the background.  I realize it is the same ring that has always attended every on-air pledge drive.  It is a ring that says, “hey, those phones are ringing.” It is a ring that goes on to say, “and someone else is making ‘that call’.

Sure, it could be a genuine ring.  Maybe they are so poor, over at WUNC, that they had to sell part of their sound-proof studio.  Maybe they had to put that phone bank right in there next to the microphone.  Maybe they only have one room in the whole station.  With the clarity of a fourth night, though, I am beginning to have my doubts.

Nevermind. “The first person to call in with a $100 pledge will be entered into a drawing to win a free- I-POD.”

“And,” adds the coy Leonida, “they and a friend will be automatically entered for that trip for two to Rome.”

“That’s right,” says Dave, and then he is interrupted, by guess what – two rings.

The phone ring is actually a pre-recorded sound, played at the touch of button like a pavlovian chime.  I know who those people are: they are people who appreciate a trip to Rome, and who are cool enough to want to download a podcast of Click-and-Clack on their own I-Pod.

I won one of those call-in prizes once.  I won a free trip to Jackson, Mississippi.

I wonder if as many of those NPR fans would call in if they said that they were giving away a free desktop PC.  What if first-prize was a long weekend to Goldsboro, North Carolina? What if second prize was a week-long trip to Goldsboro?

Except, I have to hold off on being that cool, if only for the fact that my cell phone is broken and I haven’t been able to fix it because I spend every night jumping up and down with the four-year old Red Lions.

Leonida purrs: “It’s like a TiVo for music and news….”


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