Sunday, September 20, 2009

Summer's Ending

Our neighbor’s tall green wall of corn lining our lane became variegated some weeks ago. The green separated the brown top tassels from the three feet of brown on the bottom of the stalks. When we got back from Georgia, the wall was all brown. Before we even returned to Woodsong that evening, Gerald had to drive up to Brian’s fields to see if the soybeans were brown, and they were almost there. Some farmers have started harvest, and Brian and Trent were down to their camper this weekend preparing for that event soon. The tomato plants are still producing, but not so much that I have to fill bags of tomatoes to share as I did a few weeks ago. School is well underway, and sweaters are needed some evenings as autumn approaches.

When I drove into our village on Thursday, I was surprised to see flags flying up and down the roads. I tried to remember what holiday it was since volunteers only put the flags up for special events. As I drove further into the heart of the village, I saw yellow ribbons on the flag poles and in people’s yards. Then I remembered reading on Facebook the night before that Jeremy Truitt, one of our Crab Orchard young men, was safely home from Iraq. Sure enough there was a large banner in front of one business welcoming Jeremy back home and giving a date for a celebration at the school in his honor.

I do not know Jeremy or his family, but I was touched with the love the community was showing, and it was easy to imagine the gratefulness and relief his family knows that he is back home. By the time I reached the Methodist church where I was to speak on the Trail of Tears to the lunch bunch there, I was wiping tears away and having to get my emotions under control. Today I learned young friends must drive to St. Louis tomorrow to meet their nephew coming in for his great grandmother’s funeral and also for a last leave before he ships out for Iraq. I know this young man and remember how he worked with younger children in Vacation Bible School just a few years ago before their family moved to the East. All is not well when our young people must be initiated into adulthood by going through such terrible dangers and deprivations.

It seems to me that there is also an unusual amount of surgeries and illnesses going on in our community—so much so that I can hardly keep the events in my head. My sister’s daughter down in Texas had surgery while we were away. The day before we left, my brother and wife came by briefly. They had come down the night before because both her brother and her sister were seriously ill in an area hospital. By now her sister will be back in the hospital for surgery. Our beloved oldest member of our congregation was to have back surgery and tonight we have learned that first she must have gall bladder surgery. Our neighbor from the farm across the road phoned from the hospital last night, and at that point I realized that the date for her scheduled surgery had come while we were away. And I just learned that another further away neighbor, who had done well for years following a stroke, is not doing well now. While some folks are old enough that we can expect their health to begin to deteriorate, many on our church prayer list for cancer and other illnesses are young.

Because we have such material abundance in our nation, it is easy to forget that without good health, the wealth means nothing. Although I mention material abundance, I am not forgetting that so many of our citizens have lost their jobs that they feel anything but wealthy right now. And I know there are way too many people in our nation living in shelters or even on the street. Yet in comparison to a large proportion of the world’s population, our people are still rich with electricity, plentiful running water, indoor plumbing, and community food banks. Nevertheless, if you have no job or hope of one and you are afraid of losing your home and having to move in with relatives or to a shelter, the mind must focus on what you do not have or how to cope with an uncertain future. You will probably be more likely to worry about how to pay the electricity bill than to appreciate having electricity.

How do we handle all the misery all around us? I heard a psychologist on television today point out that we humans often turn away and deliberately do not see unpleasantness because it is so painful and upsetting to see the problems around us. I know that I do. Not seeing is one way of coping. Are there better ways?

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