The least of things with a meaning is worth more in life than the greatest of things without it.
One of my favorite bloggers is a guy named Jack. Jack is a simple man with a beautiful family and some endearing stories to share about life and love and family and all the minutiae these often ambiguous words entail. Jack speaks to me on so many levels; as an elegant writer, as a befuddled father, as a bone-tired working man, as a studious observer and participant in this thing called life. You may have taken the time to read the guest post Jack wrote for The Cheek several months ago. If not, then you should do it.
Just don’t bother trying to click through to read more of Jack. The link is broken. The Family Clay, the blog anyway, is no more.
Jack’s final post is a doozy, a mixture of all that I love about Jack – as a person and as a blogger. He’s wrestling with spirituality (it may surprise you to learn that this is a topic of interest to me) and shares this about his family’s recent trip to church . . .
When it came time to extend wishes of peace to nearby parishioners, that’s when [my daughter Agalia] really made her presence felt. Because she was really too young to take part the last time were at church, I gave her a brief description of what was about to happen. “You’ll get to shake hands and say ‘hello’ to the people around us at church.”
She beamed. Getting the chance to meet new people is to Agalia what getting buttered is to toast.
There were only a few people around us, but the first to turn and acknowledge us was a man in his 50’s or 60’s who was there with his mother. He waved to Agalia, but she wasn’t about to be shortchanged from meeting new people – she extended her hand and said “hi”. The man gently smiled, and then his mother turned. In her you could see that osteoarthritis had long ago grabbed her spine and bent it like it was copper wire. Her hands shook a little when she moved, blue veins traced over a pallid face speckled with age spots, but she still had a bright smile. Being more than arm’s length away and probably not wanting to risk a broken bone for a wish of peace, she smiled and waved at Agalia. Agalia would have none of it – she squeezed past me and reached further and further over the back of the next pew until she was able to touch the elderly woman’s hand.
The woman beamed.
The expression on her face resembled that of someone who just learned of the best news she’d ever received in their life. She stared at Agalia for a few moments, taking in her bright eyes, her warmth, not being sure what to say. She just knew she wanted to bask in that glow awhile . . .
Recognizing the import of stepping stone moments like this is what makes Jack tick. He concludes . . .
We’re beginning the process of casting a broader spiritual net – we’ll be visiting Lutheran, Methodist and other denominational churches as well as nondenominational ones. Ones where there’s a mix of age and race. We’ll try to find one where they don’t believe that every other brand of worship will land you in hell, where only certain kinds of people with certain orientations are worthy of passage through the pearly gates. Jesus didn’t mind hanging out with whores and lepers, right?
I hope Jack finds what he’s looking for. As one who has been there and done that ad nauseum, I can say for certain that, when it comes to faith, there will always be things that fall short of our expectations and send us reeling for something solid and sensible. I would encourage Jack to keep his rudder in the water, his hands on the paddle, and his gaze set on the horizon. There is more than we can know, and our task is to keep rowing . . .
Jack then took the time to call me out . . .
Tysdaddy – I didn’t comment as often on your blog as I should have. Maybe with a bit more time now, I will. With the effort you put into your posts, I always felt challenged to make comments of equal caliber. Not sure if I accomplished that, but I tried. I hope the work you put into your non-traditional student activities pay off in the years to come, and serve as an example for your kids that learning doesn’t stop when you graduate.
Jack, I want you to know it has been an honor having you at The Cheek. You are always welcome here.
Of course, all this parting sorrow has gotten me thinking . . .
As of this morning, my Google Reader tells me, I have 457 unread posts in the 70 blogs I monitor. Some of you post daily, sharing the little things that strike you, giving me a chance to pause and reflect on the things I overlook. Others of you take the time to craft lengthy, less frequent posts I can curl up with and savor over a hot cup of coffee. Some of you I love reading. You’re in my Top Ten. Others of you I feel an obligation to read. Not in a “must” but a “should” kind of way. You’ve become interesting acquaintances that spark something in my frantic mind. You share comments and emails, and keeping up with your blogs is like passing you in the hall, spending a few minutes catching up, then moving on to wherever is down the road until the next time our paths cross.
Please don’t take it personally when I don’t get back to you as often as I should. I say this because this is the kind of stuff I worry about. That you’ll think I’m just ignoring you or may have forgotten about you and all that you’re going through.
And I fear that, in response, you may choose to walk away.
To be completely honest, I think about this all the time. “Why hasn’t so-and-so commented lately? They must have found someone more interesting to read.” Silly, I know. I’m a pouting sour puss who interprets the silence of my readers as an indication that something is wrong with me. I create a mental distance based on assumptions that are seldom reality, and then mourn the loss that isn’t really there. Even at this ripe old age, my armor has gaping holes. I still seek validation from those I shouldn’t expect it from. And worse, I brush it aside as accommodating bullshit when it’s extended by those who truly care.
Yes, dear reader, I am one seriously messed up individual.
Why do I continue to blog? To worry about this little community I have created? Have you ever seen the movie Lost In Yonkers? Like Bella, I want it all to mean so much. Perhaps that’s why I do this. I feel what I have to say means something. And it may not always make sense, for this is about fleshing out the random shit in my head, getting it out of there and onto here, finding some unexpected buoy and mooring my conceptual vessels so that they are no longer being tossed to and fro upon the seas of my churning and foggy mind.
To believe that I’m making a connection. That I’m not just blowing smoke or spouting some tired party line. I guess that’s why I do this. As Jack says, this is HARD work. Blogging, staying connected, consumes my free time like Takeru Kobayashi downs Nathan’s hot dogs. Yet it leaves me bloated and smiling. And, for now, until the “why” doesn’t make sense anymore, I’ll continue to belly up and do this thing.
Just remember that I never promised smooth sailing . . .