It’s an achingly beautiful autumn day. The fall colors are at their peak, and the sunshine is brilliant and clean.

Last night was our little community’s world famous Pumpkin Festival. My husband Jon made a delightful little movie about it in 2005 that still captures the essence of this incredible event, which you can view here.

Last night, I volunteered to man an off-site parking lot for the event. I was kinda dreading it–who wants to spend Pumpkin Festival in a parking lot two miles away–but I actually had fun.

As cars pulled in, I guided them into multiple lanes to keep the lines moving, took money (most of which goes back into the fund to put on next year’s festival, and gave them directions on where to park, where to catch the shuttle bus, and (of prime importance)where the PortaPotties were.

Most people arrived excited and happy: “This is our first year at the Pumpkin Festival!”

But sometimes they arrived anxious (“The signs were awful!”) or distraught (“What do you mean the lot is full?!”) or out of sorts (weeping children, scolding parents.) Sometimes even downright grumpy (“$5 to park?! Outrageous! Can’t I park downtown for free?? And I suppose we have to pay for the shuttle bus, too!!”)

I could plainly see my mission here.

I had 20 to 30 seconds to get them to a different place, physically and emotionally.

To the formerly-lost people, I’d reassure them, “Oh, thank you for telling us about the signs–we’ll let them know for next year!” (Though I have no idea who “they” are…) “I’m so glad you made it–you’re going to be okay now.” To the grumpy people, I chirped, “Oh, this is so much more convenient than parking downtown tonight–let us keep your car here while you relax and take the shuttle bus. And not to worry, the bus is free–this is the last fee you’ll pay tonight! Hey, are you kids excited about the Pumpkin Festival or what?!” To crying children, I’d exclaim, “Ohmigosh, what a great costume! You look so beautiful/scary/er, enigmatic!! Are you ready to see all those pumpkins?” They’d smile through their tears and nod.

If the lot was full, we had to send them to the next one. I was amazed how many people took this with such good grace. But the ones who were totally frantic, we’d point to the six cards ahead of them and say, “They’re headed up to the next lot, too–just follow them!” And we’d add, “If you get lost, just come back–we’ll have openings by then. Don’t worry, we’ll get you to the Pumpkin Festival!”

In the greater scheme of things, this is small potatoes. But I also felt like this was their first encounter with our city, and our Pumpkin Festival. It felt good to help them get to a place where they could relax, and enjoy it.

Twenty seconds to turn someone’s heart around….

I thought of all the snarfy columns I’ve written about booth design and salesmanship in the last few months. I want to apologize if it sounded like I was disrespectful.

Because the beautiful thing about all these clueless craftspeople is, THEY WANT TO MAKE COOL STUFF AND SELL IT!

So they start out making odd stuff and displaying it badly, and not doing a very good job of selling it. So what? They’re out there doing it. They’re out there doing the best they can.

As Oprah says, “When we know better, we’ll do better.” And so when they are ready, and open, to doing a better job, they’ll find a huge craft community full of people who will happily help them get better at it. Hopefully, people like me, Bruce Baker and all the folks who helped me get better along the way. (Thank you, Bonnie, Mark, Jeff, Alyssa, Alisha, Terri, Christine, Mary, Mark, and I could go on and on but you get the picture.)

On another note, I was getting ready to post that though my lumps are still problematic, and though I’m almost definitely facing several more consults, tests, and some surgeries, I also seem to be cancer-free.

And coincidentally, this week I saw a friend who in a six week period, found out they had an aggressive form of cancer, underwent an equally aggressive treatment–brutal, in fact–and just received a clean bill of health a few days ago. A miracle, in fact. A gift.

All without a word to anyone.

I have to admit, I was a little embarrassed at my own very public panic in the face of this “muscling through” the fear and anxiety on my friend’s part.

But then I thought–I was brave, too. I handled it differently. But then, he and I are different in how we handle things.

Bottom line–I’m so very, very grateful and relieved he is okay. We are both here, on the other side, he after fighting a huge battle (and winning); me knowing I skipped this particular battle this time.

It is two miracles. Two gifts, in fact.

I discovered this weekend I have received yet another gift. I realize that, after almost a year of doubt and frustration with my martial arts, I really am where I’m supposed to be for the next few years. I’ve truly found my next teacher in the martial arts–one who has the patience, the depth of understanding and the skills I need to get to my next level.

So as we rouse our grumpy family this beautiful morning to go to breakfast and visit a particularly beautiful stretch of road my husband discovered yesterday while hiking up Mt. Monadnock, I think of my blessings.

I realize that every day, every precious morning is a blessing, full of gifts to be given, and gifts to receive.

Even while working as the proverbial parking lot attendant, in 20 seconds I could give the gift of enthusiasm and good cheer.

When you follow your passion in life, there are people along the way who will be there to help and advise you, who will celebrate your successes and who will get you through the hard parts.

Even as I was caught up in my own scary health battles this month, not only did I come out the other side okay, I have been given the gift of a good friend, a brave friend, who’s going to be around for many more years to come.

I know again the gift of, when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.

It’s not even Christmas yet, and the gifts are just incredible.



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