Every Monday morning I volunteer at church with a group known simply as “Peanuts.” Fifteen or more of us meet in the parish hall at 8:30 and painstakingly strip the skins off of raw Virginia peanuts after soaking them in boiling water. Then the kitchen crew takes them and cooks them and packages them in quart containers for sale. The money made on these peanuts is used for outreach. Some goes to support the food pantry, some may go to Habitat for Humanity, or to buy equipment needed at a homeless shelter, or it is used for various other projects. We usually make about $12,000 a year stripping peanuts. Our peanuts are the best I’ve ever tasted and are always in high demand. Some people even get testy if they haven’t gotten their order in on time and they cannot get their peanut fix.
I go to Peanuts every Monday because I feel it’s important to volunteer in your community. I go to Peanuts because I believe the money we’re raising through our endeavors helps a lot of people. But the reason that I would rather be nowhere else on Monday mornings is because I love being with my amazing volunteers. You see, I am one of the youngest there, by far. At 63, I am a good fifteen years younger than most of the other peanut strippers. Our oldest volunteer is J. who turned 91 last September. He was a fighter pilot in the South Pacific in World War II. The majority of these oldsters have lived in the Hampton Roads most of their lives. They know everyone. I love listening to them tell their life stories with their soft and genteel Tidewater drawl.
These people have lived a lifetime, worked hard and retired, suffered the deaths of children and spouses, had serious health issues they’ve had to cope with, yet they have the most delightful sense of humor and joie de vivre. It’s impossible to be around them and not come away with that same exultation of spirit. Yesterday morning the topic of discussion was cataracts. One Peanut Lady said that after her cataract surgery, she could see better than before she had cataracts. She actually didn’t need glasses anymore. When I marveled at that, she said, “It’s not all good, you know. There’s always a downside to everything.” She looked a little solemn, and I asked what the bad part of the surgery was, expecting something very unpleasant. “Well,” she said, “when I got home, I saw how really dirty the house was. And I looked at those walls and wondered what I was thinking painting them that horrid color!”
These wonderful seniors are my role models. Some have returned to Peanuts after going through illnesses that brought them close to death. If they cannot drive, they find someone to bring them. They continue to be relevant in a world that so easily dismisses people their age. I am privileged to work with them as strippers for the Lord.