The Catalyst of August

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Make things as serious as you want, but never more than they need – St. John’s Jim

August is like Summer’s catalyst that forces plants into harvest mode. The plants know. They have known for eons. They just take that catalyst and product what we harvest. What that exact catalyst might be is different for each species. Duration of the day? Spectrum of light? Humidity? Some wierd pheromone secreted by slugs?

It’s Saturday market day in St. John’s. It’s August. Nice. It will stay that way all day. I’m walking over to the James John Cafe and have to cover my tracks to keep it’s location secret. I take the complicated route through the farmer’s market. Just then, a father comes trudging by on his way to the car. His son, a cute poster-boy for the terrible twos, is about to make his big move.

Father drudges along with a bouquet of flowers, his hand steadying and assisting the boy on the wooden trike. You know, one of those walk-em push-em kind that are so earth-wise trendy.

I’m familiar with the man’s problems. It’s called family life, and it’s a pain in the butt:

  • The kid can’t pedal a trike with no pedals, It’s some cruel grown-up trick designed to make you drive an automatic in later life. Right now, the kid is just feeling frustration as that crappy wooden seat bangs his thighs at each step.
  • The father is carrying flowers and is a bit of a hurry. Obviously this is not a trip for his own entertainment: no fishing trip with the buddies this morning, dad. Get the kid out of mom’s hair for a while, and bring some flowers back.

The son is wobbly on his three wheeler and gets off to push, then gets on, wonders why it isn’t moving. He complains to dad, who just says, “come along.” The tot looks around and sees a beautiful cake through a shop window. The boy’s mind instantly goes into party mode.Want party. Want. Now. PARTY!

The boy bolts through the entrance. Dad calls out: “Stay here. Don’t go inside. Come back. Come back.” Don’t talk so much, Dad. Just take action. So, juggling his load, dad runs into the store, his kid now making a bee line for the tables in back. The kids mind is locked on the idea of crawling up on some friendly mommy style lap and scamming some cake.

At the very moment those grimy tot fingers reach out to climb up a matron’s dress, dad scoops the child up and walks back outside.

I wait and as he comes out I look on with appreciation and sigh: “Good Times.” The man eases for a fraction of a second from his stern lecture, looks at me and smiles a bit in spite of the predicament. He knows that I know.

He heads over to the car with truculent baby, who is strangely silent under the barrage of warnings about not wandering off in strange directions. I pick up the trike and walk it over to his car. He says thanks and smiles more broadly as his kid is safely stowed out of harms way.

For a fraction of a second, he could step outside the moment and appreciate the laughter underneath: that every parent of grown children has had to deal with those terrible twos: and lived.

This is the stuff that daily life is all about. Little events. Seeming problems. Endless caretaking. Oh, no! The babies both have projectile vomiting. The cat box leaks and the floor underneath has leprosy. The handle came off in your hand as you tried to get in the van during the hailstorm. Those kinds of things catch our minds up in “the heat of the moment.” But as the years allow that heat to cool, around about the maturity of August, laughter and compassion become the emotions surrounding those old moments. Quite a better harvest, you know.

I look at the many folks in the market square. Most are at that pre-laughter, heat of the moment, state of dealing with life in these United States. But really, how serious is serious? And need it really be solemn? There is a big difference, you know. Like the difference between humans and corporations. St John’s Jim once famously said: “Make things as serious as you want, but never more than they need.”

For dad, my casual “good times” comment is like a catalyst to get to laughter just below the surface. I wonder what might for the rest of us? For me, I take laughter in my own ability to get in my own way, and that it all works out. Mostly.

What catalyst might connect any of these market folks with the cosmic laughter of life? More importantly, what catalyst might connect you,Friend, to the laughter just below the surface of your life?

That catalyst might be closer than you think — Even at the time, distressing as it was to comfort a son and daughter, both burning with fever, sitting on my lap and dueling with projectile vomit, I had to admit to myself: “That’s the craziest thing I ever saw.”

How about you,Friend? It’s August, and even though it has been known to rain frozen turkeys on August 15th, you gotta admit it’s a pretty good life. All day long. What will unlock that harvest of laughter and compassion?

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