Thursday, September 8, 2011

at the cannery

I'm still laughing about it.

(this picture will give you an idea of what I'm talking about.)

Like I mentioned yesterday, Keith and I took the opportunity to volunteer at one of our church's welfare canneries. It was a first for both of us. We arrived, anxious and excited, and sat down for a little welcome and introductory presentation.  The older senior sister missionary- a full time volunteer- poignantly reminded us, (something that didn't really dawn on me until now) that:

In the temple, we make covenants, promises between ourselves and God, to serve Him and His children.
This cannery is a place where we keep those covenants.

I love this.

Eagerly, our group of 25 all washed up, donned our hairnets, gloves, and plastic aprons, ready to get to those peaches. A tall burly man, the man in charge it seemed, who I noticed had a distinct Swedish accent, had us all line up. He zero-ed in on me and Keith and asked (a little sternly, I might add), "Are you two together?" We nodded. "Then come with me." We looked at each other, not knowing what was in store.

He led us to an area across the expansive production floor. Instead of four workers, as in the picture above, it was just going to be the two of us. We were to stand there on that platform for 3 and a half hours and align the peaches crease straight up, stem side down on the speeding conveyor belt before they were led inside the machine to get sprayed and before those enormous blades chopped the peaches in half. That was our job. Simple as it sounds, it was frantic, tiring work, I'm telling you.

We couldn't even talk to each other. The noise level was almost deafening. Oh, how I wished I had grabbed some of those ear plugs. At first it was pretty easy. We kept up okay. But occasionally, here would come that intimidating Swedish supervisor, watching us with his eagle eye, seeing how we were keeping up. Then, before we knew what was happening, he'd push that dreaded "Ve need to speed things up a little" button.

This scene kept running through my mind. Honestly.

After fifteen minutes of this, I started to tire. Mentally and physically. Keith was as calm and collected as ever. I kept looking at the clock. I was embarrassed by my thoughts. You can handle this, Emily. You're not a wimp. I kept having to look up from getting dizzy. Thoughts of "I don't know how I'm going to keep doing this for so long." I forced myself to think of those souls all around the world who would eat these peaches. The hungry children. That I had a part in this. That I was doing this for Jesus. Feeling bad for all the times I took for granted those assembly line workers who day in and day out do this menial work to put food on our tables and their tables. I tried to swallow my pride.

Anyway, an hour or so went by. I was lost in my thoughts and those peaches. I looked up at Keith. He was as white as a sheet.  "I'm sick" he mouths. Poor guy. He didn't want to leave me high and dry. At my urging, he meekly (and with a little bit of urgency, if you know what I mean) walked away.

Thankfully, I took a break when the supervisor came up to me perplexed and asked, "Vere is your husband?".  After looking around a bit, I discovered that the truck was gone.

Since he had two new guys take my place, I was so relieved that I could now switch jobs and become a pit-picker-outer. Still more dizzying conveyor belts, but this time a stool and more variety.

All in all, a learning experience. A humbling experience. A feeling of accomplishment when the supervisor man shouted to our group that we had been part of producing either 25,000 or 2,500 cans of peaches that day. (I couldn't hear.)

So happy and privileged to be a small part in this good work.


  1. is your husband okay? that is quite an operation. Yes, you did good work.

  2. Keith's fine now. He thinks he had a little "motion sickness" thing going on.

  3. What a great post! Reminds me of a line in an LDS novel I read whose name escapes me now. A man is called upon to go serve in the cannery one Saturday when he'd rather be doing something else: (paraphrase)"But I have committed to building up the kingdom, and tonight the kingdom is made of beans." -Kristina

  4. Those line up jobs can be a "killer" they are so stressful. Be glad you didn't do any meat. That was funny - truly a Lucy Ball moment! I am glad you had a chance to go. Two on a line-up is very reduced. I love that reminder introduction too! xoxos!