I don’t remember at all my first day of school. Maybe because I was one of seven children, that the drama of going off to school for the first time was tempered with the reality of having one less pair of feet and hands all over the house, but I don’t recall any celebrations or special commemorations – unlike today, when it seems that if a child goes to school for the first time, after he or she is picked up that afternoon, the family goes to the auto dealer to buy the kindergartener a new car or something like that…
I do remember vividly, however, when each of the boys started school. Let me state on the record first of all that I took each boy to school – not Cheri. Apparently woven into the DNA of both my sons and my wife is cry-like-a-baby-hang-on-for-dear-life gene, which creates a really messy scene if Mommy were the one to drop them off. Tears would pour down the cheeks, there would be a great hesitancy about even leaving the car – and the boys would act in a similar manner. However, when ol’ Dad was given the job of first drop-off, there would be a smile and a wave, and a “see you later!” and all would be well. What neither son, nor their mother knew was that after I dropped them off with a happy so-long, I then climbed into my car and sobbed for a bit. Not for long, but doggone it – they were my sons too, who were taking another step away from wearing pajamas with feet in them, and snuggling on my lap while we read a book together. Sure enough, before we knew it, they grew up. I remember when Aaron started eighth grade, that I fast-forwarded in my mind four years, and realized that would be the September when we would drop him off at college, and everything would change again in a dramatic way. Actually, as we lived in South Dakota, both boys decided they would go to college thousands of miles away, with Aaron going to Atlanta, and Adam going to Tuscaloosa, Alabama (roll tide). As it happened in both cases, Cheri couldn’t take time off to drive down south and leave the boys in a strange land, so the tears and hugs for them happened as we left home and drove for those three days to college. Imagine my thrill, then, each time over two years, of getting to unload the two tons of essential things for each of their dorm rooms, getting things mostly set up, and then having to say goodbye by myself, and get in the car and drive away, leaving each of them each time in a strange land with 30-minute old friends. I remember each time, as I drove off, of experiencing what must be the same feeling as being shot while wearing a bullet-proof vest. It didn’t kill me, but it sure felt like my heart got bruised, and someone threw a concrete block at my chest. Boy did I hate that.
As Mom got older, she would often repeat the story of when Home left me, as I went to college at the University of North Dakota the same week my home and family moved to Texas. Mom would recall and replay the image of my brother Tim driving off to drop me at college 15 miles away, while Mom stood at the door and waved goodbye, and cried. I was oblivious as to the significance of that moment, but what it meant was that I never again lived at home. I would visit for the summer between semesters, but I then slept on a cot on the porch, and lived out of a suitcase for a couple of months.
I wonder why it is that transitions in life so often require tears. First days of school, driver’s licenses, graduations, moving away, getting married, dying – all those and more are times when the body must react by crying – unless, of course, we are callous monsters, or we just could care less, and then that’s another set of issues to deal with. But we bless those moments in the tears in our eyes. We somehow know the powerful meaning of those moments in life, and our response is almost always the loosing of emotions, as part of us goes away.
So, this morning in Fargo, hundreds of children are heading out to school, and hundreds of mothers are crying, and hundred of fathers will wait until they get into the car to shed their tears. Even more, in this horrible time, it’s not that the kids are going off to school, which sometimes is a relief, but it’s that we simply don’t know what this will become, the first time we have all done this since last March. We know there is a large measure of uncertainty, and even fear, from parents and teachers, but it’s almost as if we declare that it’s time to move on, and hopefully, some semblance of normal must return to our way of life, because to not do it will mean nothing is ever normal again.
Our approach to all of this, I believe, is to put one foot in front of the other, and start walking. Lots of things in our lives are those things we’d rather not do, dread doing, or hate doing, but do them, not because they are simple and happy, but because they are significant, and show that we will not be ruled by our fear, nor our dread, but by hope. Anytime we are called or forced into taking those steps, however, we must do so, all the while acting in intentionality – let us be the first actors, instead of being only those who re-act. We can live as though we know something horrible is going to happen, or we can live, believing that the best is yet to be, and whatever we go through now cannot even be compared to what will be. Even if that means kissing your children goodbye as they go off to school – even if that means wearing the mask, and washing the hands, and praying that God’s grace and protective love will see us all through.
Have a good day today – it’s a school day, after all.
Word for the day: agrestic. Pronounced uh-GRESS-tik, the word carries with it a wide range of definition. It comes from the Latin ager, meaning “field,” or “farm.” The same root where we find agriculture. So the word carries the meaning of being rustic, or out in the country, or rural. The snobs, however, like to use the word to describe someone who is a country bumpkin, or rude, or uncouth, or uncultured. Their assumption, of course, is that anyone who grows up or who lives in a rural area wouldn’t know proper etiquette or manners, or which fork to use at a dinner setting. The opposite of agrestic is “urbane,” which of course means that one arises out of an urban setting, which naturally causes someone to have all the proper social graces and polite mannerisms.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve lived both in large cities and in very rural areas, and if I had to choose the lifestyle that offers more grace, more acceptance, more cordial and noble behavior, I know which area I would claim as my favorite place. Hint: it’s not New York City.
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.