I keep getting better acquainted with human error — my own human error. Last week, in a careless, clumsy move, I knocked over a full cup of coffee and spilled it all over the carpet. I had a witness: Eartha was there and watched the entire disaster. I was furious with myself, called myself, "stupid" and some other nasty names. Then I pointed at Eartha and said, "You're lucky you didn't do that." I said it like a threat. Why in the world did I lose my normal, calm composure?
Jesus may have first said this, or Moses, or Aristotle, or Abraham Lincoln or my dad — I can't seem to find the origin, but the statement was "leave fingerprints behind when you leave the earth." It makes sense — we only pass this way once, so we should make sure our presence counts after we've left the scene. During the last month, we've lost Sen. John McCain and singer Aretha Franklin. Both have left giant fingerprints we shall see for generations. But we don't have to be famous or heroic in order to leave fingerprints behind.
Danny was our paperboy. Once a month his job was to call on all his customers to collect for the papers. These days the paper collects through automatic monthly bank installments — much better for paper boys (and girls) and much better for customers. Several days before the monthly collection day, we had been to a junior and senior high band concert and saw Danny playing drums in the junior high band. So I asked him about it. I said: "Danny, we saw you playing drums in the junior high band at the concert the other night. How do you like playing your drums?"
I see in the paper that this is the time for candidates to file for city council and school board elections. Every two years about this time, we need volunteers to step up to the plate to do what good citizens do for their cities, counties, townships and school districts — put their names on the ballot and run the risk of losing at election time. Who wants to lose? Or is it the risk of winning that is intimidating?
There were several suspicious clues. First, Eartha was studying the sport page with deep interest. She normally pays minimal attention to the wide world of sports. Then one day, she made a casual comment "I see the Twins management has traded Dozier to the Dodgers."
What's the best thing you can do for a funeral? Show up. I went to the funeral of a senior saint last week and what I heard from his family time after time was "thanks for coming." And that's all I did — I came. I showed up. How can that be so important? Well, it is important. From the time we are infants until the day we die, while we don't necessarily think about it and we never say it out loud, in our subconscious feelings we have the desire to be remembered. "Remember me" — from the mighty to the most humble, presidents and dishwashers, we hope to be remembered.
This is the season of detours. I have been traveling one regularly during the past week. We can consider a detour to be an irritating inconvenience or an interesting opportunity. There is something to be said for getting off the beaten path and looking around. In 1916, poet Robert Frost penned "The Road Not Taken." And there, in four verses and 20 lines, he described coming upon a trail that divides in the woods and the hiker must decide which path to follow. Quite likely he will never return to explore the other path. The last three lines of the poem summarize his choice:
Want to get a college degree but you don't want to leave home? Based on what I'm hearing and reading, that's possible. But I'm going to take the old-fashioned view and suggest that if you do it all from home you're going to miss out on some of the fun and the practical aspects of learning and training. Let me give you three examples of programs that cause me to wonder. There are online degree programs in veterinary technician, holistic medicine and dental hygiene.
The wildlife and animal artists are missing the parade. They're painting and photographing all these wonderful and innocent deer, loons, eagles, ducks, geese, buffalo, dogs, cats and horses. And people buy them and hang them on the wall. It could be so much better. The most successful of these artists was probably the brilliant and talented Terry Redlin. I am thinking of a painting of a log cabin at sunset with smoke coming out of the chimney, geese flying and about to land in a pond, and a deer standing and enjoying the entire scene.
If you hop on your bike and peddle a few miles, you may find a country cemetery nearby that needs a visit. The one I found was on the grounds of an old church, unpainted for decades and long ago closed. The saints have scattered, but they haven't forgotten or neglected their cemetery. The gate was open, so I considered that an invitation. I was a stranger, but I felt welcome as long as I walked and talked softly and respectfully. This was, after all, sacred ground.