I have been here before. I didn’t want to come this way again.
I turned off of this very road and headed for a better part of this town a ways back. Yet, here I am again, headed for the worst part of town–without question, a depressing place to be. The strip joints are coming up on my right again, the pawn shops to my left. And, everywhere I look, liquor stores. No, not the upmarket kind with perky sales staff asking you if they can recommend a fine wine that will be the perfect accompaniment to the filet mignon you will be serving your guests at your upcoming dinner party. These are the liquor stores that are always the target of armed robberies in every second-rate detective movie you’ve ever watched; the sort of liquor stores that have winos wandering away from them as they tip up the brown paper bags and take long slugs of the cheap poison inside. I don’t want to be here anymore.
My trip to the big city has gone from bad to worse while spending two days in a futile search for instruments, which I can sell in my store back home. The trip has come at a time when we desperately need used band instruments for the kids who will be seeking a horn when school starts in another couple of weeks. I miscalculated though; schools opened in this city last week, and the shelves have been cleared of any band instruments worthy of the name. All that is left are pieces of pathetic debris that look vaguely like the trumpets, and the saxes, and especially the flutes that I need, but have no chance of ever playing well again. Dented bells, cracked bodies, and missing pieces have been the order of the day. Now, I just want out.
The street on which I travel has many crossroads, but none of them appear to lead to anywhere I wish to go. I simply give up and let the car follow the lane I am in; going past dives and bail-bondsman’s offices, and in front of thrift stores abutting payday loan shops. I sigh and slip into despair. Nothing. I am about to turn and retreat back the way I came when suddenly, I spot a little pawn shop with its lights still on. I am not hopeful, but I’m here already, so I park the car and go in.
The young lady at the counter looks up and greets me as I enter. My eyes scan the shelves. As I thought–nothing. No trumpets, no clarinets, no saxophones. But then I spy a flute case. “I’d like to look at that flute, Ma’am,” I intone quietly and with little hope.
She takes it off the shelf and sets the case in front of me. “Do you play the flute?” I laugh (a humorless sound) and tell her what I am doing. “Well, we have just this one flute left–Oh! There is another one back in the back. I’ll get it, too.”
I open the case she has deposited on the glass and see that it is just as all the other horns I’ve found in my search. A cheap thing, it needs a repad and a polish, repairs which will cost much more than the finished product will bring. I will pass.
As I start to close the case, the young lady returns. “I’ve only got this Haynes flute. It’s pretty bad. You interested?” It is a good thing that my back is to her, because I’m sure that my mouth dropped open. Haynes flutes are very fine instruments and highly sought after by professional musicians everywhere.
“Yeah. I’m done with this one. I might as well look at that one, too.” I am trying to be nonchalant, but I must see this instrument. “Well, let’s see what we’ve–Oh.” I am stunned. The solid silver flute is completely black; tarnished beyond recognition. The rods upon which the keys pivot are corroded and not a single key will budge. I’m sure that I needn’t mention that the wool pads are all moth eaten, do I? In short, this flute is in worse condition than any instrument I have looked at in the last two days.
Well, certainly I purchased the flute! The young lady’s boss set the price, a ridiculously high one (he thought) for a flute in its condition, yet a ridiculously low one (I thought) for a flute of its caliber. As I walked out to my car, the lights along the street seemed a bit brighter. This wasn’t such a bad part of town after all, was it? I noticed that people were talking to each other on the street as they passed one another. Sure, the liquor stores were still scattered about and the bail-bondsmen, with bright yellow signs screaming their phone numbers to future and past felons, were still lining the road, but inside my car, I was seeing it all in a different light.
This was a find! With just a few dollars’ investment, it would be worth thousands. I turned out of the parking lot, headed in the same direction again. Within minutes, I was in a high class neighborhood, and then on to the expressway out of the drab city. The lights of home waited to welcome me just moments away.
Dark places abound in this road trip we call life. Some of us experience them more often than others. Some of us make them worse than they actually are. That said, they are still dark places. When we are in the blackness of despair, or depression, or whatever one needs to call it, we wonder if we will ever stumble out again. Repeatedly, we try the doctor’s cures, or the home remedies and the sure-fire fixes, only to find that the only way out of the darkness is to endure until the dawn, which comes when it will, not when we seek it. It is not an enjoyable position to find oneself in.
What I am saying tonight is that if we keep moving forward, if we continue to do the things which we know that we must, we may actually exit the darkness with some new-found treasures tucked under our arms. It won’t happen if we quit moving forward when night falls. It won’t happen if we decide to wait out the storm, holed up in some storm shelter. The person who achieves the great coup, the one who gains the great victory is seldom the most intellectual, almost never the strongest, but is consistently the most determined. The only way to get through is to go through.
As I write tonight, the darkness around me is profound, both literally and symbolically. A storm rages outside my door and inside my head.
I have been here before. I didn’t want to come this way again.
I wonder. What treasure will I find this time?
“…forgetting those things in the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.”
(Philippians 3: 13b, 14~NLT)
“If you are going through hell, keep going.”
(Sir Winston Churchill~British statesman and Prime Minister~1874-1965)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2013. All Rights Reserved.
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