I almost skipped over this week’s matchstick suggestion: “Organize a neighborhood get-together.” I thought about tossing it and pulling out another. Why? For one thing, I’m a hermit. And, for another, in my neighborhood we have several people much better at organizing get-togethers than I am. One woman in particular is very socially minded and has neighborhood parties and get-togethers at least once a month. It’s too much to go to all of them, but I do show up for some, with deviled eggs and a bottle of wine in tow. It’s not as if I haven’t ever had a neighborhood get-together. (How many years ago was that?) I have good neighbors and I really like them, but adding more get-togethers—I don’t think so. It does make me think, though, am I as hospitable as I should be? No, I don’t have to wonder. It wouldn’t kill me to quit leaning on others, and plan another get-together at my house.
Have you ever thought about something that might happen and a little later it happened? Several years ago a coyote ran in front of my car. It was at night and I couldn’t miss it. The strange thing is I’d just been thinking that I had not ever hit anything, even though road kill adorns our country roads every day—skunks, possums, squirrels, raccoons and, of course, our famous armadillos. After the coyote incident ($2,000 plus damage to my car), I knew I had been fortunate it hadn’t happened before. This week as I was driving home, I wondered what would I do if I hit and injured someone’s pet dog? How awful that would be! Just then, over a small hill, I met three dogs walking along in front of my car. I was able to slow quickly as they moved off the road. I checked the internet. If you injure someone’s animal, if safe to do so, pull over, put on your hazard lights and call the police or sheriff. Stay with the animal until they arrive. If you can remove the animal from the road, do so, but be careful not to get injured yourself. Good advice. The sheriff’s phone number is now on my phone. I’ve been warned.
Last week I signed up for an art workshop. I packed my car with art supplies and began my trip to the college where the workshop was to take place. Then I got stopped in a line of cars by a very long and a very slow freight train. Maybe I’ll just be a little late. When I got there, I found myself in a maze of buildings. I drove around until I finally found the right building and went in to look for the workshop room. I was 20 minutes late by this time and all the artists had already started their projects. It would take another 10 minutes or so to get set up. Did I mention this was a workshop with a well-known Western artist? I thought I would be painting horses and cowboys or cowgirls. When I walked in, I saw everyone was working on a painting of lemons piled high in a yellow bowl. I quietly left, thanking God I had a good excuse. Now, I know some in there painted beautiful still-life paintings that day. But, too much yellow and too little horse action for me.
Sunday afternoon after church, I attended a 100th birthday celebration for a choir friend’s mother. Miss Louella (we sometimes add an honorary miss or aunt here in the South) was dressed all in light rosy pink with a shiny tiara crowning her white hair. When I told her how pretty she looked, she smiled and asked if I’d had any of her birthday cake yet. She still gets around with a cane or walker, plays bridge and is quite witty. Her daughter said 100 doesn’t look so bad if we could all be like her mother. I hope she really believes that because she may very well have the genes to live that long as well. Several weeks ago when she asked her mother if there was anything special she would like at the celebration, Miss Louella said she wanted 100 balloons released. And, she wanted those balloons released whether in celebration of her life or death, whichever came first.
“Help a friend find something positive in an unpleasant situation.” That’s the matchbox suggestion for this week. Now, that can be touchy. I’ve known some who have had a health problem that motivated them to go to a doctor and learn they had a more serious life-threatening problem as well. If they hadn’t gone, they would have died. Now, that might be an appropriate situation in which to use that suggestion. But, have you ever heard anyone try to comfort someone who’s lost a loved one with, “They’re in a better place now” or “I’m sure you’re happy they’re not in pain anymore.” Don’t say it. Just don’t say it. For one grieving the loss of a dear loved one, an “I’m so sorry” or no words at all with a hug is enough. They may agree their loved one is not in pain and in a better place, but they’re suffering a heartfelt loss with wounds deeper than such feeble attempts to comfort can salve. So I’ll be looking for the right situation this week, but carefully and thoughtfully.
Did you ever want to be able, like the disciples, to put your hands on someone and instantly heal him or her? Of course, I’ve prayed for people, and prayers have been answered. But, when I see a little child trapped forever in a wheelchair or someone tapping their way along with a white cane, I have this deep desire to, well, just walk over and say, in the name of Jesus rise up and walk or let your eyes be opened. I’m feeling this way now because a friend is suffering with severe macular degeneration, made worse by glaucoma. She’s also not getting a lot of encouragement from the specialist she’s seeing. When her friends are all together, we act like everything’s OK, but her husband is worried. We’re all worried! He said to me privately it would kill her if she wasn’t able to read. And, what would she do if something happened to me, he said. I’m praying and I hope you will too.
“I don’t care if he kills me, I like him anyway!” That’s what one of my friend’s husband said about his heart doctor. I laughed but also have to say I have never appreciated any doctor that much. Of course, it brought to mind Job’s words, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him” (Job 13:15). I believe Job was sincere because he had already suffered so much that only death was left. We can say in God we trust (even on our money) but do we really? Trust in someone other than ourselves, even God, is hard; we like to be in control of our lives. We aren’t. We don’t know when we wake up what’s going to happen that day, no matter how well planned. As a tightly scheduled person all my adult life, it’s nice now I’m retired to ease up a bit. Sometimes I even put my lists aside and say, “All right, God, what do you have in store for me today?” It’s very freeing.