Off My Rocker

Last spring, while taking some time away from work, I began a project that I had put off for a while. Around my home’s perimeter, I have river rock. The weeds were having their way with one particular area, and every time I took out my trash and I was brave enough to peer around the garage, it seemed that a jungle was beginning to grow. All the stones needed removal and new material placed underneath to keep the unwanted foliage down to a minimum.

My first trip was to the dreaded hardware store to pick up the landscaping roll, pins to hold it in place, and buckets. This has never been a favorite outing. During my childhood, I recall visiting many of these places with my dad. He seemed to speak in a foreign language about saws, wrenches, and screws that all had their use. None of it ever made sense to me, and even now, I still struggle to understand what some of the products are on the shelves. Throw in math and measurements, and I zone out.

I gathered up my supplies and started the process of picking up the rocks with gloved hands. I had no idea the labor and time this was going to take, but I kept a clear vision in my mind of a pristine area that no longer brought on a cringe.

At certain times of the day, the sun would go over the house, which provided shade. Despite this, as summer approached, the temperatures began to rise, so I was often drenched in sweat. I would go out of the house fresh and ready to conquer and return weak, dehydrated, and filthy. My reflection in the bathroom mirror always displayed a “dirtstache” over my top lip.

One evening, I decided to go back out after giving it a rest from working earlier in the day. It was cooler, and I wanted to accelerate my progress. My neighbors had friends over for a cookout, and the section I was focusing on was visible from their front porch. Soon, I felt a presence next to me. A little girl smiled and said,

“Can I help?”

While the adults were having cocktails and talking about issues she couldn’t comprehend, she decided that what I was doing looked more attractive.

I caught on quick that boredom had led her over. She didn’t want to lend a hand; she just wanted someone to keep her entertained. I turned on music that she requested, which was followed by humming in between a million questions. Every rock she picked up was examined, and I was asked what it was. Not many made it into the bucket she was given. Instead, she put them back and moved on to another one that caught her eye.

“Do you know how fast I can run?” she asked with her big brown eyes looking at me intently, hoping I was up for the challenge.

“No, I don’t,” I said.

“I will show you!”

And like a flash, she was running toward the backyard. I stopped what I was doing so she could see that I was paying attention to her. I had sympathy as I recalled being her age and stuck in a room full of older people and feeling left out of the conversation.

She ran back to my side, panting uncontrollably.

“This time, can you count?”

“Sure,” I said.

I mean, what would it hurt to do so if it made her night more fun? She got into a runner’s stance showing how serious this was.

“Ready? Set? Go!”

She took off again, and I began to count.

When she returned, her breath came in short gasps.

“I want to run around the whole house. Can you still count while I do that? I want to know how fast I am.”

“Okay,” I said.

It would be easier to keep doing the task I had come out to accomplish with her out of my sight. The rocks were not leaping into the buckets by themselves, and it was going to get dark.

We went through the countdown, and she took off like a shot.

One of the neighbors yelled,

“Chris, you are a sucker! She will have you doing that all night long!”

I put my head back down and grasped a handful of rocks in each hand.

“Nine, ten, eleven, twelve…”

I was shouting numbers at the top of my lungs to be sure she could hear me. When I saw her coming, I slowed way down, and as she pulled up next to me clutching her kneecaps with both hands, straining to breathe, I said randomly,

“TWENTY!”

Once she was able to talk, she said,

“I am going to do it again to see if I can make it back faster. Count slower this time.”

“Okay,” I said with a smile.

It was like cheating on the number of swings you take when you golf.

She got in position to go again, and I began to count so she could hear.

“One, two, three, four…” I yelled out in a happy tone as I dropped more rocks into the bucket.

Suddenly, I felt like I was being watched. I glanced to my left, and an older woman passing by on the sidewalk was frowning at me like I had lost my mind. From where she stood, it appeared that I was counting each rock as I was removing them. The little girl was still on the backside of the house. The lady’s forehead was tight with confusion and concern. At first, I thought of ceasing my count, but the speedrunner was depending on me, so I didn’t want to disappoint.

As she shook her head and rolled her eyes, I counted louder. She moved on quicker when I made eye contact with her.

That is when I started to laugh, and I am sure that solidified the idea that my sanity had slipped away. Things weren’t quite as they appeared.

This can be said for many situations we encounter daily. Do we jump to conclusions or make assumptions based on what we see or hear? Maybe that person across the street with the political sign in their yard that doesn’t line up with your views has a need you can fulfill. But, the sign keeps you away. How about the slow driver who is impeding your progress, is crying their eyes out on the way back from a funeral? What about the long line at the grocery store because the cashier is new and doing the best she can?

We are quick to process a scene without any insight.

As I move along in this life, I am more conscious of that still, drama-free, inner voice that speaks knowledge that cannot be seen with the human eye. For me, this has led to more compassion, grace, and forgiveness.

Tapping into my spirit, I have access to wisdom that keeps me more grounded and less off my rocker.

Psalm 19:14: May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock, and my Redeemer.

Special Delivery

“All of the things I ordered should be here on Thursday between 2:15 and 6:15pm,” she said.

My daughter had placed several orders at the end of the year for her business. Seventeen boxes were expected to arrive at our house Thursday with twelve more to come on Friday.

Thursday evening, as the clock was getting nearer to 9 pm, I began to doubt that she was going to get anything. At 9:45, she got the dreaded notification that all of her packages would be arriving on Friday at the same time of day that had been previously promised.

I had already had trouble with this particular delivery company being late and delaying my orders.

“I am going to complain to the company,” I said as I went to bed that night.
“They need to do better business than this. People aren’t going to trust them anymore.”

I had put it out of my mind until the next evening when six o’clock was looming. Both of us had been looking out the window at any slight sound that would indicate the truck with all twenty nine packages had arrived. I felt my irritation growing as I started to assume that no one was going to show for a second time.

I went into the kitchen to prepare dinner when the doorbell rang. I opened the door to find a man hefting four boxes balanced precariously and breathing heavily.

I took what he had and handed them off to my daughter. Just as I was going to launch into my disgruntled customer speech and how unreliable the company he worked for was becoming, he blurted out,

“My dad died. I won’t be able to scan any of these packages.”

I felt my mouth drop open while my mind tried to switch from annoyance mode to sympathy.

“Oh. I am sorry to hear that.”

He stalked back off to his truck that was parked perpendicular to my driveway.

I whirled around and said to my daughter,

“Get your coat and boots! The guy’s dad died. I think we should help him bring everything up to the house so he can get going. He just told me his dad died.”

“What?” was all she said as she grabbed her outerwear and flew out the door with me.

I could hear him moving possessions in the back of the truck. The windchill was wicked and within moments my face and lips felt like stone.

My daughter took a few items to our front door while I waited for another load.

“So when did you find out this news of your dad?”

“Two blocks ago,” he answered matter of fact like.

Instantly, I thought maybe he and his dad weren’t close.

“Was this an expected death?”

I received no response from him, but then I realized he had called someone.

My daughter returned to my side.

“I don’t think he is okay,” I said to her in a hushed tone. “He has to get out of here. He is probably on the phone trying to make funeral arrangements with his family.”

Another round of packages were shoved our way and we each took another trip up the driveway.

To speed up things, I jumped on the truck and began to look through the load with him. He had gotten off his phone as we looked for the last two items that were on the list.

“You said you can’t scan any of these. So, it will look like they weren’t delivered. Will you be able to fix that later? I don’t want you to get in trouble for anything.”

“It will be just fine. I will make sure to adjust the information once I am done for the day.”

“Okay,” I said. “Are you going to be able to get off of work soon?”

“I am almost done with my route for the day,” he said casually. It was like he didn’t really care that one of his parents had just passed away. “Thank you for helping me.”

“Well, this is all too much for one person to handle,” I said. I wasn’t just thinking of all the stuff she had ordered but his situation as well.

My fingers were getting numb as the cold was setting in viciously. “I don’t know how you do this every day. It is freezing in here!” I was trying to help as best as I could. All thoughts of complaining about the delays were the farthest from my mind.  I was finding out quickly that his job was not fun in such brutal weather.

“I think the last two things will be coming tomorrow. I don’t think they are on this truck,” my daughter said to us from the open side door.

With that, I hopped down and said to him,

“I am so sorry that your dad died. I hope you are able to get going now and deal with that.”

He blinked a couple times and then a huge smile appeared.

“No, no no,” he said as a started to laugh. “My dad didn’t die! My diad died.” He held up his scanner.

“This is why I couldn’t scan your boxes. It died two blocks ago.”

“No one is dead then? Your dad isn’t dead?”

“No,” he said again as he bent over with a giggle. “This is called a diad.  My dad didn’t die.”

“Well, that makes me feel better!” I said laughing along with him.

We said goodbye and the warmth of my house never felt so good.

I realized later that because I thought he had lost his dad, my attitude about the delivery being late was forgotten. My perspective had changed just with one simple sentence that I had not heard correctly.

I began to wonder how many times I could have circumvented a negative emotion had I taken a step back and changed my mind before I reacted.  How much time have I wasted on being upset over something that I am not going to remember a week from now? How much of my energy have I given up punching at the air?  We have universal control over how we respond to a situation.

In Proverbs 15:1 it says: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.”

I think that when we chose to say something in a way that is peaceful, then we and the receiver are at peace.  When we chose to respond with anger then it not only fuels our fire but the one who is listening has to take in an earful.  Even though I looked quite foolish dashing and rushing trying to help out a person who I thought had a death in his family, I was thankful that I hadn’t gone ahead with what I had planned on saying to him.  At the end of it, I had wound up laughing and probably made that guy’s day a lot happier.

Only God can make a lesson come like that in a special delivery.