Yesterday, as I was standing in my socially distanced line to check out at the grocery store, I noticed that in front of me stood a mother and what probably was her 18-month old son. She wore a mask, like everyone else, but her little boy also wore the cutest little mask, hooked over his tiny ears, that you ever saw. If you are not someone who wears a mask when you go out in public, you should see this little guy – happy as can be, and happy to so his part to contain the spread of the virus.
Although I couldn’t see his face, I could tell that under the mask were two little chubby cheeks, and his eyes telegraphed to the world that he was as rascal, and more than ready to have some fun, even in a grocery store. Sure enough, it happened. While Mom was looking away, the little boy grabbed hold of his mask, and pulled it up over his eyes! He just sat there, completely covered, calmly waiting to see if his mommy would even notice. I sensed that he had done this before, since he sat so patiently. Sure enough, she finally looked at him, and said, “What are you doing, you silly boy?” And she pulled his mask down from his eyes and back over his chin. From behind the mask, you could hear that wonderful sound of a baby’s belly laugh, and the form of a big smile and twinkling eyes.
Of course, it only took a few moments before Mommy looked away, and quick as lightning, the mask went back over the eyes, and the little face sat there, waiting for another reaction. When his mother spotted him, again came the laugh, the pulling down of the mask, and another belly laugh. As I said, I would guess this was part of the normal activity for that family. It sure gave everyone around a chance to smile, to see one of our littlest citizens coping through this worldwide pandemic in the best way he could – by playing games with his mommy.
You see, one of the first things we lose as we are captivated by anxiety is our sense of humor. Some experts have said that we can only tell a joke, and respond to one out of our “higher brain” – our cerebral cortex. It’s there that we are able to process even the most rudimentary events or statements that could bring laughter, or even a smile. When anxiety hits, however, if we are not mindful of what’s going on, we will find ourselves dropping down into our “reptilian” brain – the more primitive and basic part of our mental development. It’s there that we have a our “fight or flight” tendency, and there is not much that will make us laugh. I imagine a snake – I have never seen a snake laugh, or giggle, or even smile. They don’t have a sense of humor. When we fall under the spell of an anxious heart and mind, we might as well slither.
When we are able to break out of that, however, and even find some way to think more lightly, we free our minds to do better problem solving, and imagining, and to think independently. We are able to smile – not because we refuse to understand the truth and seriousness of a situation – because we know that there is a solution somewhere, and a new possibility somewhere that perhaps we just haven’t found out yet.
The baby who giggled in a game with his face mask was not deeply insightful as to what was happening in the world, but he was able to make the best and enjoy the moment, despite what swirled around him. Such is the blessedness of a baby’s mind. I’m not calling us to become infants, but I am hopeful that we can use our efforts to think with a higher mind, to feel with a lighter heart and to act in a way that continues to bring joy, even when it’s kind of tough. Our intentional life provides the path for that, so that instead of reacting with the mind of a reptile, perhaps we can find our selves more closely aligned with the mindset of the angels.
Go ahead and play peek a boo, if it works for you…
Word for the day: obelus. Pronounced AH-bell-us. This is another one of those “show-off” words, that you can use to produce proof that you are very smart. It comes from the Greek, obelos, which means sharpened stick, or a spit – it’s the same word root as “obelisk.” It was originally used to point out possibly incorrect facts in a paper or piece of written information, but was also used as the sign/symbol employed in a division problem. It’s that line with a dot above and a dot below, that tells us to figure out how many things go into the other thing. Jethro Bodine from “The Beverly Hillbillies” would talk about learning his “gazintas” – two gazinta four, three gazinta six…
It joins some other more learned words – just a reminder – like “asterisk” instead of “star” (it comes from Greek asteriskos, meaning “little star”), or “octothorpe” instead of “hashtag, and even the plus sign, +, which is a shortening of the Latin word, “et” – which means “and.” Don’t you just feel the intelligence oozing from your mind?
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.