So, in our Christmas outdoor decorating (in 45 degree weather, so I wore shorts…) yesterday, we indeed did come to the conclusion that the two wreathes hanging on the front of the house looked a bit lopsided, now that we had the overgrown evergreen bush pulled out from the corner of the house. So, we made the difficult decision that we needed to go buy a third one, to make things look nice on Meadow Creek Circle South. That meant a trip… to Hobby Lobby. It really is the best place to buy what we needed, so on a Saturday morning, along with what must have been every other person who lives in the lower Red River Valley, we forged our way to the big square store.
It’s not fun anymore to go shopping. First, I have to put on my strangling mask – which, when they say that a mask does not affect your natural breathing? They are lying. Outright, dirty-dog lying. Next, we have to begin the dance of social distancing, which on a Saturday at Hobby Lobby is like telling a nation of lemmings to make sure they spread out as they jump off the cliff. We avoided a cart, since we were committed to only looking at and buying one wreath. It was a constant game of shifting between aisles that were too tight for two people to go through, and then of course everyone else in the store was pushing a cart, and stopping in the middle of an aisle to peruse and gaze fondly at the “stuff” that makes Hobby Lobby famous. No, I didn’t call it junk, but I think you can surmise my impression of it all.
Well, we found a suitable wreath, even at 50% off the Saturday before Thanksgiving… I expect the first week of December they will start trying to sell the Valentine decorations… and made our way to the checkout stand. There must have been some sort of secret signal given to all the shoppers in the store – something like, “The Crosses are moving to checkout – it’s time for the 500 people in the store to get in front of them in line.”
So, we stood and stood, and finally made our way to make our purchase. Everything went fine there, but then the checkout person decided our big wreath needed to be in a small plastic bag to carry it 12 feet out of the store. I mentioned that I didn’t believe the bag was large enough, but strangely, when you cram and smash a good eight inches on either side of a 24 inch wreath, it will indeed “fit.” When we got home, we then spent a good 20 minutes de-cramming the wreath before we could hang it up. It looks nice, and our outside decorating is complete.
Except… a couple of days ago, Cheri read in the paper that somebody in the city stole a little Christmas tree that had been part of some outdoor decorations at a house. Now, even to report that as news shows how interestingly small our community thinks. I expect in many large cities you have to decorate your home with a barking dog and laser-pointing scopes on shotguns to make things merry and bright and not get stolen. Still, it bothered her that this kind of thing could happen in Fargo. She then transferred that to a concern that the pretty decorations we had put out were somehow on the radar for the now-to-be-named Christmas Grinch, Home Alone robbing Gangsters. I tried my best to explain – which of course I could be terribly wrong about – that our pretty decorations were by a house that was at the lower end of a circle of a development that only has one way in or out, and has cameras recording who comes and goes, and there would be probably 25 or so homes with their own pretty decorations that were far more expensive than our standing between the entrance and our house. I think we are pretty safe, as we have been for the last five Christmases we have lived here. I don’t, however, think it helped to say that I thought they had a greater chance of being smashed falling off the house with one our 45 mph winds than stolen…
Unfortunately, when Cheri has Saturday coffee with her sister, her sister recounted the fact that Cheri’s nephew, who now lives on his own in a townhouse, had a package delivered to his address while he was working out of town. Apparently, the package included a box of expensive football cards that promised to contain some very specialty cards. So of course, that package was stolen right from his front porch in broad daylight. You can see how it’s possible we are singing the first stanza of this year’s “Tis the season to be stealing…”
However – and it’s important to note – the nephew lives in an area of town that is very “dense” in terms of population, with lots of townhomes, and also apartment buildings, and he lives on a corner that sees a great deal of both car and foot traffic, as lots of folks walk from their apartments to catch the bus. There could be as many as 100 people walk by his townhouse every day, as opposed to our having maybe 20 walk by, and they all live in the neighborhood, and have a dog they are walking.
Still, the sense of safety for most of our lives rests with a reliable illusion. If we are out in the woods alone on a dark night, and we hear rustling nearby, the sense of safety is pretty low. Living where we do, how we do, though, let’s us think of our safety and that of our “stuff” as being pretty high. Until we hear of, or know someone whose safety was violated by the action of a punk, most likely.
We’ll get by all of this, and as the temperature drops and snow starts to fall soon, we can be assured that the “riff-raff” do not have the constitutions to riff or raff in winter.
So, that’s life in every town today. Safety threatened by just going to a store, or by hanging up something pretty, or even just hearing about someone else having something happen to them. Now, you and I know that reasonable steps should always be taken to make sure things are safe in our lives, but to try to nail down every single corner of our world will exhaust us, and make life just not worth living. We have heard the saying, “Trust, but verify.” I would turn that around, and say first, “fortify” within reason – but then “trust.”
Have a great holiday season. Enjoy yourselves, and intentionally create safe spaces for you – and your pretty decorations – and your packages – and your loved ones to exist and find joy in what you do. And watch for those wind gusts…
Word for the Day: wheeple. Pronounced, WHEE-pull. Not hard to say, but sometimes hard to do. We turn, not to Latin or Greek today, but to another location that has managed to put many different words before us: Scotland. Wheeple, or to wheep, are just words used to describe something that happens – they have no deep or ancient roots. Sort of like “auld lang syne,” they just conjure up a time and place where “mostly” English language goes to be messed with. So “wheeple” is the sound made when someone whistles – either feebly (and you know that sound, that seems more like the sound of air escaping) or shrill – like a piping of a boatswain, to welcome someone aboard a ship. Birds have the power to do a lot of wheeping, as to little girls who are running away from little boys – they wheep almost to the point of being able to bust your eardrums if you are close by. It’s always appropriate to ask someone to stop wheeping, so long as you distinguish that from “weeping,” which is a far different experience.
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.