Part of our History: In Anchorage, Alaska

Laura Lee at CostcoLaura Lee at Costco

I am employed by a warehouse demonstration service, which provides product demonstrations of wholesale items.  We demonstrators give away samples and tell the members about the product.  Usually, it involves food and cooking (I’ve done everything from boiling tortellini, baking tostadas, and serving fresh cheese on crackers to baking frozen cookie dough (One day, I baked and served almost 800 cookies!).  We work six hours on our feet and serve from a little cart or folding table.  After checking our carts to find out what we will be doing and making sure we have all our equipment and samples, we head to an assigned store location, quickly set up and begin serving.  Each day brings something new; we change places and products every day, stretching our perspective and habits (a good way to ward off mental confusion in later years?)  It feels like a microcosm of my nomadic years travelling and working at the circus when we manipulated our way into small and sometimes inadequate spaces, set up and hooked into electricity and then in the evening tore it all down, packed and unpacked, cleaned up at times with no running water, and dealt with lots of expectant crowds.

My co-workers (many of whom are fighting addiction, serious health issues, economic uncertainty and unhealthy home environments) and I attempt to make ends meet with our part-time wages and unpredictable schedules.  During our individual break times, we stop by each others’ stands.  It’s our moment to share news and an opportunity to connect.

I’ve met a great variety of people through my work and our store is a social hub in the neighborhood.  I’ve seen not only our local parishioners, but villagers from the bush who come to stock up, older people who walk through the store for exercise and just to see some friendly faces, the physically disabled using wheelchairs and electric carts who are comfortable in this hustle bustle atmosphere as they blend in with the crowd.   I’ve met Hispanic and Asian folks, Samoans and people of Russian descent who’ve settled in our cosmopolitan city.  Mitch (our TV weatherman) is a regular.  There are military families from two bases nearby and people of many faiths (including some Mormon gentleman who have given me leads on how to learn about my family tree).      

Surely, I have often served an angel unaware! And how many people do I meet daily who are quietly facing tremendous challenges without fanfare:  The chronically ill girl whose rare disease prevents her from eating without a feeding tube and who still happily cooks for others, that cranky old man who fusses and is just beginning to converse with me, the cheerful mothers with children in tow, the parents and two sons who eat the samples with shyness and hopes that I won’t see the hunger in their eyes, the person struggling with his sexual identity, the artists, the natives, the rough and tough old-timers still searching for gold?  Am I able to make their day a bit brighter as I offer them my tiny wares?  They often do the same for me.  They become my mentors, and remind me that we’re all on the road together.  Isn’t that what being ‘church” means:  giving and receiving life from one another—going through the daily routines with the option to pass on a little light in the midst of the consumer hubbub?  I am glad to be here!