He might not want all of us to get P.H.D.s or move to the other side of the world, and you don’t have to be a televangelist or a best-selling author in order to live a great life (not to disrespect any televangelists or best-selling authors out there). Take Jesus for example. He spent most of his earthly life in his small hometown, and people were surprised that he even knew how to read. He wasn’t married, wasn’t very attractive, and wasn’t a stranger to suffering. He chose ordinary working men and even social outcasts to be his companions and torchbearers.
Neither of my grandfathers had college degrees or ordinations. What they did was common but also very important.
After serving in the military, my father’s father built a successful business, and today the profits help to support charities near and far.
My mother’s father made time every Sunday, on his one day off, to visit the inmates of the local jail. When a drunk man interrupted a worship service at church, my grandfather decided to take him home. My grandmother washed and mended his clothes while my grandfather told him about Jesus. It was a simple thing to do. There was no fuss about it and no applause. But this man’s heart was changed, and many years later he sent them a letter to tell them that he had become a preacher.
Let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.–1st John 3:18 NKJV
Less is more when God is in it, so little things are more important than they might seem. Little things can make a big difference. A smile. A touch. Fifteen dollars. A word, spoken in the right way at the right time. A cup of cold water. (You don’t have to watch It’s A Wonderful Life to know this.)
THERE WAS A WINTER when it was so cold that the air hurt to breath and made the hair in adult noses crackle. Power lines snapped under the weight of accumulated snow, which completely buried our car, and which we melted in pots on our wood-burning stove because the plumbing was frozen. It took real guts to venture out on the icy roads. Starving coyotes would sit outside the house at night, punctuating the stillness with their delirious howls, while our Border Collie slept fitfully indoors by the fire. My sisters and I curled up together, spoon-style, beneath a mountain of quilts, more like one body than three. To ward off the doldrums, we played a sadistic little game in which we dared one another to go outside and run all the way around the house barefooted. We were always the kind of children who were easily entertained, and so it was no hardship when fog settled in like a nebula, erasing the world around us. I perused the whole shelf of World Book encyclopedias from A to Z. I ate instant oatmeal and learned the importance of ritual—those little habits and routines that lubricate the machinery of life and maintain our sanity.
So it must be nostalgia or femininity or some combination of both that when I think of “adventure” I automatically think not of storm-chasing or espionage but of Gontran de Poncin’s description of hibernating at a Hudson Bay Company outpost in Kabloona.
“Paddy had done wonders with his living room. It was warm and intimate and was the frame within which our life was lived. Here within a hundred miles of the Magnetic Pole there was a kind of bourgeois* coziness that was unbelievable. I used to say to myself that there were no bourgeois places, there were only domesticated souls. One could be an adventurer in New York, and one could also be an old maid in the polar regions… Nothing would have been present to remind one of the Arctic if a few white foxes, the ‘money’ that paid for my excursions on the trail, had not been hanging from the ceiling… There was even a vase of artificial flowers—which I would hide from time to time and Gibson would bring out again almost immediately… Continue reading “Snug As A Bacillus In A Cheese”→