Sore feet do not just happen overnight. It takes months of deconditioning to make possible the kind of foot-soreness that comes from actually using one’s feet for the purpose of standing and walking on them for an extended period of time, like most of the day, on a hard, flat surface, like the church kitchen and multi-purpose room, after a good, long layoff.
So the profound foot-soreness that I associate with our church’s annual Cajun Dinner, which officially benefits Harrison County Community Services, our local food pantry and community relief agency, has to be cultivated. It takes me some dedicated sedentary living to get in shape to experience a week of steady engagement with tasks like setting up tables for what we hope will be a small crowd and inventorying and shopping and thawing and chopping and mixing and setting up and fetching and carrying and serving and washing in just this way.
But sore feet do not happen alone, either. And for the combined efforts of so many people, from our experienced jambalaya chef and our increasingly sophisticated red beans expert and our crawfish étouffier and our talented art designer who decorated the CLC to feel more like a party venue than a giant beige warehouse to our kind and generous and be-costumed jambalaya dishers and salad servers and bread-and-butter barker and sommelier of iced tea and lemonade and the dessert divas and the jolly kitchen krew and everyone else who signed up and showed up and dove in and filled in and came early and stayed late and made the “magic” of this peculiar Hoosier Mardi Gras celebration happen, even “gratitude” seems like too fat-free a word.
This year, our neighbors from One Church came over on Friday and helped us pull chicken off bones for jambalaya, and then came over on Saturday and helped us eat the jambalaya and then clear off tables and put up tables and sweep and wash, which was both an immense weight off some weary shoulders and feet, and a beautiful exhibition of the kingdom of heaven to the world. Because we, too, are part of the world. The new members stayed late and helped bag up leftovers, which is some advanced invisibility charming of the “what would we have done without you” variety.
Magic, in our grown-up modern real world, is understood to be illusion. This traditional-for-us Mardi Gras magic is no exception to that rule, I suppose.
Every year, it looks like the Cajun Dinner, even though it is “all that work,” “just happens.” It “all comes together,” and in our joy and gratitude we watch one another, for a moment, shine like beautiful heroes.
An illusion like that does not just happen overnight. In real life it takes months and years of dedicated living together through choir practices and worship services and committee meetings and Sunday school classes and parking lot conversations and baptisms and funerals and everything in between, becoming people who want to be and are there for each other, and who hold that circle open for newcomers, to make that transfiguration possible.
On the other hand, according to us, our sore feet are firmly planted on the ground of a world in which miracles like transfiguration can just happen at any moment, as real and possible as sore feet, and gratitude.