The Roof Is Not On Fire
One of the mysteries of living is the advice we give others. Another is anything to do with creative work. Some say there is a muse with which we may have a relationship. Others say everything is buried deep within our subconscious brain. Creativity remains a mystery to me.
Another mystery to me, is how and when we offer advice to others. If you read this blog, or if you see the posts on social media, you will notice there is encouragement offered. Very little preaching, perhaps some teaching, but at least encouragement. Often, I wonder who is doing the saying of what I say. I wonder who is creating the memes or drawings. Who it is all meant for?
It really is all just an experiment. Some people have hobbies that involve sports or gardening. Many people enjoy many things. I enjoy a good doodle, a recorded reading of a book, and making people smile. It really is, just my “thing”.
There may be no connection to the divine. What I say or do is never associated with the universe by me. Those thoughts present too much pressure. That kind of thinking, the kind where one is called to do something, creates responsibility, and compassion is not born of responsibility. It is not how I make a living, and therefore, is only an effort to help in some small way.
Occasionally, I wonder who I am helping. The answer is obvious. I am helping myself. Within all of the encouragement I offer, are words directed to a part of me that needs encouragement. It is only that I am a man, working out his own “stuff”, in a very public forum.
My son and I have created shirts, postcards, memes, and even set up a business for selling greeting cards. We give the shirts away, we have never sold a postcard, the memes are offered for free, and the business has generated less than $50 of revenue in its first year. We have spent so much more setting these things up. But like any hobby (or anything worth doing), the money invested is not what determines value.
The doodle at the top of this blog was done one night this past summer, as I sat on my deck. I have shared it with several people. Immediately after the simple drawing was done, I realized it might help someone understand that life is bigger, more complex, and more precious than our trouble.
Earlier this week, I had my first sleepless night in several years. Something was just not right. There was no threat or danger, nor was there a worry that kept me from sleeping. It was as if I was too grateful to rest. Then it hit me. My life is the miracle.
I have not told the story that follows for nearly thirty years. In some ways, it may have been repressed. So much so, that I wonder what parts of it are true and what parts have been created in my mind over that time. After lying in bed for an hour or two, I raised up and realized it had really happened. I struggled to recollect the details.
While I was in college, I spent a scholastic year living in what was then called, the Baptist Student Union. Rent was exchanged for some simple chores and I had the privilege by virtue of having been elected president of the organization. Admittedly, I was not a good president, or even a good Baptist. If the truth were told, I was not even good at mopping the floors.
This is the story that flooded my memory and caused me to sit upright in my bed, begin to pace the floor, and wipe tears from my face. If I have remembered incorrectly, perhaps some of my friends will help with the details.
On a Sunday morning, I woke to the roar of two engines, in two large vehicles, as they pulled into the gravel parking lot below the window of my bedroom. It was a small room, just big enough for bunk beds, which my roommate and I shared. The room also sat over a meeting room which was adjacent to a large kitchen and near an administrative office.
After getting dressed, “I stumble down the stairs to meet the day” (love to Kris Kristofferson), and walked outside. I was greeted by two firemen and I asked what was the purpose for their being there so early. Without a spoken word, they directed me to the meeting room that was just below where I slept, and showed me the damage that was done. I saw burned walls and scorched ceiling joists. There was a smell of burned papers and books. The building had been on fire.
When I asked how it was that I had not heard them fighting the flames, their faces drooped. I asked how difficult it was to put out the flames, and their eyes widened as they replied, “We didn’t.”
They showed me to the kitchen, where there was evidence of flames creeping through the walls, but not catching, and said, “If it had caught traction in here, the whole place would have gone up.”
A candle had been left lit in the building. This is a simple mistake. A resident had heard a smoke detector in the middle of the night and removed the battery because there was no visible danger on that side of the student union. For whatever reason, with whatever intervention from this and other worlds, the fire… just quit burning. It took thirty years for me to see the magnitude, the wonder, and the miracle of it all. Thirty years of living without considering that my life was the miracle, without expressing gratitude, or seeing the grace in it all.
So where did the drawing come from? Who were the words, “your life is the miracle”, meant for, really? Was it some message my former self was projecting to my present self? Was it my subconscious sharing now, after finally being able to process the event? Was it God? Was it God working through me, for and to, me?
I do not worry for such things. It is only for me to be grateful. Just one more consideration of the mysteries of this life. It might very well have been a miracle, but so is finding the courage to wake up in the morning and give this world our genuine selves. Maybe it was the intervention of some divine force, but so is every sunrise. The words, “your life is the miracle”, may have been meant for me, but they are for you also.
It happens that this day is the American Thanksgiving. I am fairly certain that this celebration was instituted by Abraham Lincoln, and not native Americans and Pilgrims. There will be people eating too much, shopping too early, and bitching and moaning to some family members, about other family members.But there will also be gratitude. And gratitude is my jam. Gratitude is not a reason for apathy, complacency, or the excuse not to change things for the better. It is, however, an effort to appreciate what there is, and the ability to create joy in myself and others.
Some days I rock it and some days I do not. What I do is try. Some days I realize that it is all a gift, regardless of who or what we believe gifted it to us. Who knows what will become of the blog? Who knows what will become of our efforts to turn a profit? These are not my real concerns. To change the world, one smile at a time. This is my real goal and a real possibility. Exciting, isn’t it?
I hope this Thanksgiving finds you smiling for some reason or another. If it does, share it with someone. The smile, that is.