Forever learning

Mask

The hot humid days that we have endured for so long have finally relented to cooler days and crisp nights.  Another autumn season is upon us with all the sights, smells and tastes that our senses relish.  School is once again in session, but it is anything other than a normal school year for most; the pandemic has changed the complexion on even how teachers instruct and how our children and grandchildren learn and interact.  It’s within that realm of change that I find myself in the role of teacher, instructing our new Kindergartener granddaughter on Wednesday’s in abbreviated studies of learning sight words and correctly writing her ABCs and numbers, as well as basic math skills.  This whole impromptu educator role has me reflecting more on how we learn and grow, beyond our formal education to our life experiences that make us who we are as adults.  Some of those experiences were possibly birthed from embarrassing moments, while others perhaps were more informal in structure, driven home by adults or others we respected that loved us enough to teach us the intangible life lessons that make us who we are.  May I share a couple of embarrassing learning moments that I’ve experienced?

The first occurred around the summer of 1982.  Jenny and I had been married about three years and had a one year old to watch after.  We stopped at the Dayton Mall to visit our JC Penney, the reason why not as important as the lesson I was about to learn.  We got out of the car and I removed the “fold up” stroller that seemed to be a simple chariot for young Alison to ride in but was quite temperamental at times to set up or fold down.  I was pushing the empty stroller toward the curb, lifted the front wheels and proceeded to lift the rear wheels when the stubborn contraption decided to fold up on me; evidently, I hadn’t been a good new dad and made sure everything was locked into place.  Well, the apparatus made a sudden stop but I, however, did not, sailing over the thing like a super hero but landing like a tossed misfit toy.  About that time, two young men had seen what had happened and walked up, not knowing quite what to do until they saw my young bride laughing hysterically which caused the two men to erupt in laughter as well.  They didn’t seem to care that my pride was just lying there, in need of mouth to mouth resuscitation!  Lesson learned: make sure a contraption is in complete working order before using it…

Another “learning” moment came while Jenny was expecting.  Jenny and I had gone to a local steak house in Middletown, which was a rare treat indeed for a couple that seemed to survive on Franco American Ravioli.  I felt really “special” as I waltzed up to the salad bar and proceeded to fill my plate with all kinds of incredible edibles.  One thing I always liked to top my salad with was grated parmesan cheese.  I perused the salad bar until I found what I thought must have been the shaker, so I immediately picked up what I thought was the container and gave it a squeeze, at the same time thinking it was kind of strange that I would have to “squeeze” it.  Immediately, I heard a “whooshing” sound and stood horrified, as I had just sprayed off my salad into the salad bar and half the restaurant!  Lesson learned: be more aware of the tools you attempt to use and understand their intended purpose before using…

For those of you that really enjoyed a taste of self-deprecation at my expense; you’re welcome!  For those of you that are thinking to yourselves, “your mama must have dropped you on your head when you were little; you don’t have a lick of sense”, no she didn’t but yes, common sense is acquired, not inherited.  Which brings me to my next section of life learning: common courtesy and common sense.

Common courtesy should be pretty easy and straightforward but in this day and age, not so much.  The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines common courtesy as, “politeness that people can usually be expected to show”, thinking of someone else first in a situation, i.e. holding the door open if you see another person coming behind you, etc.  For example, did you know that the turn signal in your car is actually to be used to visually communicate to others of your intentions when you’re going to make a turn? (I’m hoping YOU already know where you’re headed…)  Of course, I do understand that it’s more difficult now, since your hands are either occupied with texting, eating, and such but still, make the attempt!  Another example could be that you have a cart full of groceries and you see someone with two items in their hands; let them go first. 

Or here’s a new one; to mask or not to mask, that is the question.  After all, aren’t my liberties in jeopardy?  Isn’t my personal health at risk more if I wear a mask rather than if I go around maskless; you know, my oxygen level and all?  Believe me, there are times when I’m wearing a mask that I feel more like a hefty carp that’s been tossed up on the river bank, gasping for every desperate breath!  To be perfectly honest, I hate wearing a mask! But then I read, 1 Corinithians 10:23-24 which reflects, “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.  That scripture pretty much explains why I do personally wear a mask in public areas.  I wear a mask because it’s a common courtesy to others who don’t know who I am or what kind of risky life choices I may have made, but it’s more than that.  I do it for my wife, who has an immunodeficient system due to medications she takes to combat the effects of Lupus, which she has battled for over thirty years.  I do it because I love her; we’ve been a team for over forty years and we both want to keep going strong; together! It’s only my own personal opinion that wearing a mask just makes sense, common sense; that a person would want to try to protect themselves and their families from something unseen, unwelcome and for some, deadly.  I certainly can’t speak on behalf of everyone; we all have to do what we feel is right on this hot button topic and go forth with our own convictions.  I know I’ve probably just stepped on a lot of toes and if you’ve just tuned out, I understand.  And if you think I’m sharing out of fear, you would be wrong; just trying to be cautious and use a sound mind.  In fact, 2 Timothy 1:7 reflects, For God hath not given us the spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.  It’s the same kind of common sense that urged me to pursue a gun permit and subsequent pistol; not because I’m afraid, but because our world has turned upside down in the past six months and therefore, I’m going to make sure my family is properly protected, through our second amendment rights, while we can still exercise that right…

While we still have breath in our lungs, hopefully we are still learning, still growing in Christ, still adding to our common sense and common courtesy lists, still laughing and learning from the mistakes we’ve made, still listening to that still small voice, urging us on to think of and love others as much or more than we love ourselves, to learn to listen more and judge less, to learn to trust God explicitly in all things, not just the easy things in life.  For as long as we’re alive, we should forever be learning and growing.  Now if I could only learn to navigate down the one way grocery aisles…