Jim Bishop | Life throws you curves and then grades you on it
What an unexpected but most gladsome sound! About to enter my vehicle to leave for work, I heard and then spotted half a dozen fat robins in our front yard, serenading our Belmont neighborhood. Wasn’t this just mid-February?
The temperature that morning was unseasonably mild, causing me to wonder at first if these harbingers of spring might have been lured north a tad too early. But I preferred to think that their appearance served as a reminder that Ole Man Winter would soon begin to loosen his icy grip on the frozen landscape.
Returning home that evening, I surveyed the south side of our house, and sure enough, light green shoots were pushing their way through the crusted mulch, undecided whether they were ready to be subjected to the vagaries of Mother Nature.
About a week later, I headed out the driveway to retrieve the newspaper in dawn’s early light – light snow was falling – and spy a single robin shivering on the driveway. It looks lost, forlorn, as if asking itself, “Why didn’t I stay in Acapulco – or Albuquerque?”
I felt sorry for the quivering waif, thankful I was able to scurry back to the warmth of the kitchen to sip another cup of strong perked coffee before departing for work. I hoped the wayfaring stranger would find the backyard bird feeder full of seed and the block of suet hanging next to it and enjoy a free breakfast.
The festive flock celebrating their return to the Shenandoah Valley and the promise of warmer weather to come, contrasted with my half-frozen feathered friend, reminded me that this is the stuff of which life is constructed.
The warp and woof of our lives is rarely neatly sequenced, even amid our daily routines and obligations. About the time we’re puttering along in a comfortable groove, trying to stay out of the rut of repetition, the unexpected happens. Life can change us, our circumstances, our attitude, in a split second.
The phone rings with unwelcome news, a vehicle smashes through the guard rail that changes everything in an instant, an envelope announces layoffs at work, the hot water heater blows with insufficient funds to replace it.
Life is a Great Equalizer. Rain falls on the just and the unjust. Persons who don’t need the money win the lottery jackpot. A family barely eking out a living loses everything in a fire or tornado. Bad things happen – all the time – to good people. And, we ask “why?”
Why ask why? Because that’s what we humans do. Each of us desires logical answers to sensible questions. But, nice, rational answers often are not forthcoming… and maybe never will be. But, we keep asking “why.” And, we should.
Regardless of the deadline we’re facing, or a time of grief we’re going through, the clock doesn’t slow down or the world turn more slowly on its axis to give more time to pick up the pieces. Nonetheless, that pain and sorrow can be lessened by the gift of an encouraging word, a sympathetic ear and a caring touch or hug.
The more uncertain the future becomes, the more important it is to stop to smell the proverbial flowers (better yet, to purchase a bouquet to give to someone who least expects it), to carve out some time for another who needs assistance, to help them carry on.
I speak for myself: when something good happens to me I need to share that blessing while I am able. I don’t know what the next day, let along the next hour, might bring.
“Consider the birds of the air,” Scripture says, “they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” . . . “Therefore, do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble” (Matt. 6:26-27; 34).
The robins are back, and even in this struggling economy they will be cared for. The spring bulbs are – almost reluctantly – starting to push through the soil, buds on trees are swelling and the sap is rising, despite the chilly temperatures.
Hope springs eternal …
– Column by Jim Bishop