Monthly Archives: April 2014
We all dream of accomplishing great things, of doing or being the one person who changes the world, finds the cure, transforms another individual. But maybe it’s really about the small things, the single moments that are the most important, like raindrops on an ocean.
To a casual observer, those raindrops don’t seem to make any difference in the vastness of the ocean. Insignificant, small, raindrops neither add to the volume of the ocean nor change the salinity or chemical composition of the ocean.
Parents, teachers, leaders spend years teaching children and young people that we can make a difference, that individuals can change the world, make life better, impact other people’s lives. Then we grow up and take our place in a world where seemingly the individual makes no lasting changes ever. The weight of evil often seems to bulldoze its way through life, steamrolling over ever struggle, every accomplishment.
So what’s the point? Should we just give up? Never try because we know the end result will always be the same? Just because we can’t see results, doesn’t mean there aren’t any.
Change comes slowly and ofttimes in ways we aren’t looking for. Social scientists have done years of research on the effects of individuals on history. Unfortunately, most of those results are never apparent until years after the individual is gone and history can look back and reflect. Only then do we realize it’s not the big changes that matters, but the tiny, insignificant ones that have lasting effect.
Consider the raindrop. It’s not about the raindrop changing the ocean, it’s about the ocean changing the raindrop. One insignificant raindrop becomes part of something much bigger, adding to the success of the ocean by allowing the ocean to swallow it up, combine it into something with greater power, greater outreach.
The ocean changes us. And the change within an individual, combined with the changes in other individuals is a vast, overwhelming force that cannot be challenged, nor stopped.
An iconic institution for my family is Denny’s. Our relationship with Denny’s began when my husband and I were newlyweds and needed a “fancy” restaurant that didn’t break our pocketbook. Back then, Denny’s offered up a fantastic entree, salad, sides and dessert for $10. For seminary students on a tight budget, this was almost too-good-to-be-true. Not to mention their fantastic Grand Slam breakfasts for under $4!
Then came the kids and again, Denny’s came to our rescue. Family friendly with a laid back atmosphere, Denny’s didn’t mind our crew of rambunctious offspring and we could fill them up for a reasonable price. Denny’s also didn’t mind how long we stayed and kept the coffee cups full.
So it’s no surprise that when planning a date night, more often than not Denny’s is our choice of restaurant. It’s got a down home charm all its own, with friendly waitresses, is always open no matter the time of day or night, with quick service and the food is still excellent and affordable.
Sorry if this sounds like free advertising, but Denny’s is all about memories for my family and me. This is where we met with friends from far away to catch up on our lives. This is where we ate out with our children and had fun just being together. This is where we hung out with our college kids and their friends. Denny’s is where I can spend a romantic evening with my husband, talking, sharing and not competing with overly loud music or blaring televisions.
Denny’s is a symbol of what America still is among rural, small town communities. Denny’s is where we can always come home, even when we aren’t at home.
“Hold this,” my father said, handing me a crushed Coke can. I took it gingerly, thinking this had to be the most ridiculous command I’d ever been given. After all, what did holding a Coke can have to do with a 15-year-old girl using the public bathroom at the lake?
It definitely made things awkward, and although I toyed with the idea of dropping the offensive item once I was inside, I knew better. Dad would have had a screaming fit. Mission accomplished, I handed the can back to Dad, who promptly threw it back on the ground where he found it.
I bit back the angry retort and sullenly went back to fishing.
I don’t remember the rest of the day, but I remember for long years afterwards thinking what a stupid thing my father had asked me to do.
Fast forward 20 plus years: I’m in the library with my small daughter who needs the public restroom. We live in a small town; going to the restroom in the library ought to be safe, but it’s not. Just the week before a child had been accosted while her mother was a few feet away in the main room. I went with her and suddenly, like a glaring searchlight, flashed back to the scene at the lake. Overwhelmed, I wanted to burst out crying. My quiet, modest father had foreseen possibilities that I couldn’t fathom at that tender age. In his own way, he had sheltered me against an evil I wasn’t even aware of. The Coke can would have been a signal I needed help and he would have come running.
Unfortunately, by the time I’d matured enough to realize the priceless gift my father had given me that long ago summer day, he was no longer living. The saddest part of life is not realizing the value of someone else’s life, nor the impact it has. We often fail to see beyond what’s right in front of us to what is invisible, yet priceless.
Sometimes, the rough exterior of a common, ordinary, gray rock–like a life– hides a glittering treasure that often goes overlooked, unseen, unnoticed.
Every spring I fall victim to a strange malady, a consuming disease that arrives with the first hint of balmy weather. When the temperatures start creeping toward the upper 60s, at spring’s first gentle nip in the air, my fingers start itching and my feet head of their own accord toward the gardening section of the nearest store.
I’m a plant-a-holic. I confess. I see seeds, smell peat moss and green growing things and I have this uncontrollable urge to plunge my fingers into moist dirt and will plants to sprout and grow. I can spend hours strolling the aisles looking up exotic blooms and foliage, reading directions and attempting to ascertain if a certain plant is right for my locale.
There’s only two problems: one, most of the plants I relish don’t belong in my climate zone; and two, I don’t have a green thumb.
It’s become something of a joke in my family, how quickly will I manage to kill this year’s collection of specimens. Once, I tried talking my husband into letting me stop at Lowe’s before we went grocery shopping. His response, “So now you’re trying to kill the plants before we even get them home?” Sigh.
I can’t help myself. I see colourful blooms and want them in my garden the way some women want shoes or purses or fabric. I collect seed packets the way some women collect recipes. The more exotic the bloom, the more I have to try to coax it to thrive in my yard. Unfortunately my yard has several severe handicaps against anything green growing there. West Texas red sand, West Texas 120 degree heat in the summer (and the house faces west), West Texas lack of rainfall. Plants do not thrive on well water alone.
But I’m an eternal optimist. Every year I try something new. I have coaxed columbine, oriental poppies, Chinese stone crop, Peruvian lilies, and of course, roses to put forth blooms and add beauty to an otherwise drab yard. One day, I will have time, money, and the sufficient varieties to have a real garden. In the meantime, I try one species after another in planters, hoping to find the right combination of plant, water, and sun.
My one huge failure is also my one incentive that keeps me trying year after hopeless year. Ten years ago I set out a sapling, no bigger around than my thumb. It was a tree species guaranteed to thrive in West Texas conditions. It’s still no bigger than my thumb; but last year during the drought it had more leaves than ever, even though I gave up watering it years ago. It comes back every year in spite of overwhelming obstacles. How can I give up on any dream, any hope, any vision?
One day I’ll have my garden: cool, green, with prismatic colours, a refuge from the West Texas heat.