The old Native American answered my greeting hesitantly as he entered the store. Since he’s one of my regular guitar quality-control technicians (loves to play all the new stuff!), and is almost always upbeat, it was a little disconcerting when he answered my usual, “How’s it going today?” with a mumbled, “Oh…getting by, I guess.” Not wanting to intrude on his privacy, I switched subjects. “It’s sure been a cloudy, dreary couple of days, hasn’t it?” The weather is always a great fall-back area of discussion which doesn’t require a lot of personal information. Not this time.
“That’s just it!” He exclaimed. “I hate this! And, there’s months more of it to come.” I felt a relief, as we talked, realizing that his initial response wasn’t because of a family crisis; had nothing to do with a health problem or even financial woes (as I see more and more often). Here was a kindred spirit who suffers from the same affliction I do this time of year. The gray, overcast days actually cause a physical and emotional malaise, robbing us of our normal optimistic outlook on life. Instead, our spirits are dampened to the point where we dwell on the negative, remembering with regret happier times and friends who are no longer with us. Songs and photographs, along with other memories which should evoke warm emotions, instead deepen the feelings of loss and melancholy. We sat, the old Indian fellow and I, and commiserated about our shared disability. When he finally had to leave, oddly enough, I think we both felt better.
The phone rang awhile later and I answered, to find one our African American customers from a large Eastern metropolis, who wanted to place another order. I was happy to talk with her again, joking as we communicated about the items she needed today. She said there were five items she needed and launched into the list. Three titles later, she halted. I could hear her muttering to herself, “I knew I should have written them down. Why can’t I remember the others?” Immediately, I realized that here again was a kindred spirit. How many times over the last few years (maybe all my life) have I forgotten people’s names, important dates, appointments, and miscellaneous other vital details? I tried to put her at ease as she cast about in embarrassment to remember the lost information. A few moments later, as we consoled each other regarding this defect in our condition, the misplaced titles came to her and we sped on to the conclusion of our transaction. In spite of the speed bump, we were able to salvage a potentially losing situation for both parties. She will receive the music which is necessary for her church family to enjoy; I appreciate the profit from the sale, which enables us to pay the bills for a few moments more. Better than that, we both realize that we’re not the only ones with a flawed memory. Shared imperfections build bridges where no connections existed before.
Several other times today, my conversations reminded me of the common ground I share with so many folks…folks from many different walks of life, from diverse geographic regions, even from vastly different ethnicity. I understand, of course, that the examples cited here lean to the negative connections, but we share so much more. I talked with each of these folks about the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday and without fail, each one expressed their intent to share the day with family and loved ones, and talked about their enjoyment at the prospect. Failures and infirmities, hopes and blessings – we all participate daily in a common lot. Color, social status, nationality, environment…all of these things change the particulars, but they cannot alter the reality that we are really all one race, the Human Race. We love; we laugh, we cry; we carry on. I am excited to recognize the shared qualities of our humanity in many places I wasn’t expecting to find them.
Over and over in recent days, the news media has communicated the intent (and active programs) of many to splinter us. There are some who would separate us by color, some who seek to ostracize those who are wealthier (or poorer) than they, some who want to point the finger of judgement at people of different faiths. I refuse to participate. Making clear that I believe firmly in a God who requires faith in His Son for salvation from the punishment for sin, I steadfastly maintain that His love compels us to love, not hate. Compassion is a requisite in our treatment of those who are fallen, those who are needy, those who have no hope. It is our calling and our lifelong quest.
Okay! Done preaching now. Over the last few weeks, I have noticed many of my friends listing the things they are thankful for, each day of this month leading up to the official day of Thanksgiving. I don’t have the discipline to do that each day, but I will today tell you that, of all the things for which I am thankful (and they are innumerable), the one I am intensely aware of on a daily basis is the blessing of communication, of fellowship. I love to talk (now, that will be a surprise to you!) and to listen. I love learning new tidbits of useful (and useless) information from the people who cross my path every day. Most of all, I love the opportunities I have to use what I learn of people to share the blessings I enjoy freely. What a joy all of you with whom I interact are to me!
I hope the blessing of people ranks high on your list of things to be thankful for too. In everything…Give Thanks!
“In Christ there is no East or West,
In Him no South or North.
But one great fellowship of love
Throughout the whole wide earth.”
(William Dunkerly~English businessman and writer~1852-1941)
“Now thank we all our God, with heart, and hands, and voices…”
(Martin Rinkart~German pastor and musician~1586-1659)