Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Lost and found


On one of those clammy, gray Gulf Coast afternoons when everything is the color of sunlight through squid, I drove past the Calder Baptist Church. Through the drizzle, I spied the grotesque outline of an up-ended tree, its amputated trunk sunken into the soggy lawn, its roots clawing like arthritic fingers toward Heaven … as if the tree were growing down toward Hell. It was surrounded by limbs, branches, chips from chainsawed trunks and other dismembered extremities of once-living things scattered among traumatized but living trees. The dead among survivors.

Then through the watercolored windshield, I saw the church’s sign. It referred to the Act of God Formerly Known as Rita this way:

LOST: 29 TREES
GAINED: MORE LIGHT

Just as my friend, the Rev. Jim Fuller, intended, it made me think. I’d already inventoried — again and again — my losses: A roof, several grand trees, a chimney, some windows, my fences, my sense of security … but how did I benefit from this disaster? What did I gain?

I gained wisdom. Some things aren’t worth worrying about, and some are. Houses can be rebuilt; homes cannot.

I gained a humbler perspective. Some things are bigger than we humans are, despite our swagger.

(OK, so not everything was warm and fuzzy because …) I gained a sobering view of insurance people. As a group, they’re insensitive and inefficent – at best – because they reduce human suffering to a financial transaction. Worse, they dictate the terms of the transaction.

I gained a sense of community. I met some neighbors for the first time when they stopped to help, or when I knocked on a door to see if help was needed.

I gained several cool garden decorations from someplace upwind.

I gained a better idea of just how long it takes a tree to grow. Too long to cut them down casually.

Finally, by losing significant portions of my property, I gained a firmer footing in the world.

4 comments:

Jim Fuller said...

Ron: Your ruminations precisely capture my intent. Jim Fuller

Anonymous said...

Ron,
I go by this sign everytime I go to church. It always helps me turn my negatives into positives. Thank you for filling out the message and saying what there wasn't room enough on the sign to say.
Jo Fuller

Anonymous said...

I lOVE IT! It validates what I believe...there is GOOD (God) in ALL things. We just have to open our eyes and look for it. Sometimes we can't see it right away, but if we keep looking, we will find it, because it IS there. THANK YOU!

Beverly Goff said...

Ron ~~
Your article was so skillfully written that I am now looking for the BOOKS you've written--and the Calder Baptist sign says it best: the "light of the world" is Jesus.

Beverly Goff, Grapevine, TX