April 28, 2017

Cornucopia / Cynthia Dewes

Every day brings new stories to help us live our lives

Cynthia DewesIt seems to me that life is a succession of anecdotes. Some are amusing, some instructional and some downright scary. It’s hard to be bored when every new day brings such stories to enlighten us.

They aren’t all enormous or important, either. On a recent visit to a doctor, I experienced such an event. When the doctor entered the consultation room, he was trailed by a big golden retriever, which promptly sat down in the corner and looked sympathetic. Now, what nervous patient wouldn’t be soothed by the presence of a non-judgmental doggie? I thought it very clever of the doctor.

Then there are other people’s stories. My sister-in-law had bad hips and walked with two canes. Her husband was confined to a wheelchair because of polio, but he was so proud he refused to get a handicapped sticker for their car.

One day during the height of the Christmas shopping season, Betty gave up and parked in a handicapped spot at the store. She was given a ticket and went to court on the appointed day. When her name was called, she rose and started to hobble down the aisle. The judge looked up and said, “Case dismissed.” Now, that’s justice, not to mention common sense.

Of course, children furnish us with many of our best anecdotes. Our son Andy gave us lots of good stories. Because he was mentally disabled and acted “funny,” some new kids on the school bus one day were tormenting him. Immediately, one of the neighbor children grabbed the culprit and said, “Stop that! Don’t you know that’s Andy?” To her, it was self-evident that Andy was off limits.

We were lucky enough to live in a time and neighborhood which was safe for kids. Everyone knew their neighbors, so the kids roamed about at will. Somehow, one day Andy escaped the notice of his siblings and wandered into a house on the next block.

The family’s kids were watching TV while their mom cooked dinner. Andy sat down with them, but when the mother noticed the intruder she asked her children who he was. “Oh, that’s Andy,” they said, and soon one of his brothers appeared to take him home.

Among our friends and neighbors was a German couple who’d been brought to the U.S. by the Quakers after World War II. Fred had been an unwilling member of the German army who served in Italy and later helped the Allies as an interpreter. His wife had been virtually imprisoned by the Russians in northern Germany until she and her little boy ran away to the west.

Another child had already died during this horror, but Ruth and Thomas managed to reunite with Fred, and they spent a year with a farm family in the west. Fred, a real survivor, made apple jack from the farmer’s apples and supported the whole household. After they came here, Fred had a good job and later went to law school to become an attorney for the National Labor Relations Board.

If we’re paying attention, we can get a lot out of life’s anecdotes. Every day, God provides us free of charge with a new insight or idea or suggestion as to what we might do next. It can make every new day a challenge and a delight. Like children, we should ask God, “Please tell us a story.”

(Cynthia Dewes, a member of St. Paul the Apostle Parish in Greencastle, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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