The sun was beating down on me while sweat poured into my eyes. Exhausted from riding my purple Vintage Schwinn 12 speed bike for hours in the humid heat, I stopped at the UDF on the corner of Burnet and Martin Luther King for a drink. My throat and mouth parched with thirst.
I leaned my bike, which I found lying on the ground at the drive-thru, against the store wall then entered and walked toward the back. The beers looked alluring but Gatorade was enough.
Soon after exiting the store I took a big gulp of my Gatorade. Discouragement began to come over me giving me a headache. Differently from the instant headache I got from leaving the 72 degrees UDF then entering 89 degrees outside temperatures. This was a mild tension headache; more dangerous.
My burning red eyes panned Cincinnati’s blue skies looking for more smokestacks a sign boilers are present. I spotted one just north-east with a white plum coming from its stack telling me it had good air/fuel ratio something I’ve recently learned in class.
I took another drink of Gatorade then walked my bike down Burnet Ave.toward the stacks.
I don’t take rejection well so after being turned down several times trying to volunteer somewhere so I can qualify to take my exam, I was reluctant to ask the tall white man smoking a Marlboro in front of Jewish Hospital’s boiler room could I volunteer there. My mind, sounding like my homies on the block, told me to give up. They said no black man can make it in this white conservative city.
Then I remembered my sister telling me I could do anything if I put my mind to it. My spirit said go for it.
In my profession to become a licensed boiler operator in Ohio you must complete six hundred hours classroom training also complete six hundred hours on the job training around boilers then you’ll be eligible to take the Ohio Boiler License exam.
All boiler operators know this so why they keep turning me down I thought to myself as I walked toward Mr. Marlboro.
His blue shirt had a name tag that read Mike, so I addressed him by that name when I approached him.
“Hi Mike my name is Vernon and I just completed six hundred classroom hours at UC ( University of Cincinnati) taking Stationary Engineering 1 & 2.” Mike staring happily at me with this big Kool-Aid smile on his face. I watched him take a long pull on his cigarette then I continued.
“I was wondering could I volunteer here for my six hundred on the job training hours.”
Without hesitating Mike said yes. He said Jewish Hospital has a volunteer program that offers free parking and free lunch. He asked me would I like to start on Monday. I excitedly agreed to start on Monday, shook Mike’s basketball hand, then jump on my bike and rode toward home.
On my way home I stopped and got a beer then sat in Fleischmann Gardens on the corner of Washington Ave.and Forest Ave to drink in the shade. I thought to myself while admiring the beautiful landscape, what if I would had given up? My mother always preached about perseverance. Although I wasn’t into God back then I still can recite the scripture she would often quoted.
“So don’t get tired of doing what is good. Don’t get discouraged and give up, for we will reap a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time.” (Galatians 6:9)
I thought finding a place to volunteer was a challenge but reaping a harvest of blessing at the appropriate time would be a painful experience for me. Because little did I know God was just getting started on performing a deeper work in me when I volunteered at Jewish Hospital. A work that cannot be seen.