I was standing on the threshold of my house ready to step onto the sun-bathed floor boards of my front porch when I heard the yelling.
I was in celebration mode because I had just received an email stating that the final paper for my final class for my bachelors degree had passed, and I was completely finished with school. I had immediately called Marnell to share the news, and then eaten a piece of rhubarb dessert, made by my friend Barb. I shared a piece with my aunt who had supported me through my year of school.
I had stepped onto the porch because I expected the appliance repair man at any moment. The ice maker on my stainless steel refrigerator– which I inherited by the way, with my house–was not working. Clearly a life crisis.
So with happy thoughts of graduation, with the sun shining it’s beautiful June shine, with anticipation of having a newly repaired ice maker, and with rhubarb dessert still on my taste buds, I scanned my neighborhood.
The yelling was coming from two people on the sidewalk three houses down from me in the place where the sidewalk turns to the south. A man was facing a woman, looking down on her from several feet away, yelling.
“I’m not trying to f-ing change my life! I’m trying to make you happy!”
I couldn’t tell if she replied. But the hope-drained droop of her head sent chills through my celebration spirit.
“And how do you think this is helping, this, standing and yelling in front of everybody isn’t making you happy!” he ranted on.
I looked around the neighborhood again, and I wondered if he had seen me come out the door, because I didn’t see any other spectators.
I don’t mean to take the woman’s side automatically, but he hardly had the appearance of someone who was sincerely trying to make her happy.
He turned and walked on down the sidewalk. She scurried after at a distance of about 10 feet.
I had a similar moment the other day at the hospital when I was getting ready for a day in heart surgery. I armed myself with my black binder, my pager, my cell phone, my hospital phone, my keys to various important doors, my name badge, my Post-it notes, my five dollar mechanical pencil.
“I have something for you,” said one of my co-workers, coming up to me in critical care.
She gave me a small cardboard box tied with twine.
“I support the Syrian refugee children, and they sent me two bars of soap made by refugee women. I thought of you.”
It only takes a split second to halt the busy, narrow American mindset of ice makers and stainless steel pencils and rhubarb desserts and graduation triumph.
An obscenity shouted in public, a bar of Aleppo soap, and the world is suddenly larger, and I suddenly remember that not everyone is celebrating.
I don’t think it’s wrong to celebrate, and I certainly have been, as recently as a delightful breakfast with two of my friends this morning. But I’m glad for the bigger picture lurking outside my front door, to catch me in mid-excitement and remind me that blessings are something to thank God for, not to flaunt or take lightly.
The bigger picture reminds me that my celebrations are not about me. Sure, I had to work. But, had I been in a relationship like the girl I saw on the street, I probably would have been too stressed to finish my degree. Had I been forced to flee my home because of war, I probably wouldn’t have finished, either.
We owe so much thanks to God for the things that haven’t happened!
And the only sensible thing to do, I think, when we feel like celebrating, is to praise and thank God.
Thank you God for the strength to finish school, and just in time before a long stretch at work! Thank you that I haven’t been forced to flee my house, where the pink geraniums are just beginning to grow and the hydrangeas are about to bloom. Thank you for breakfast with Sarah and Kendra this morning. Thank you that I have a kind man in my life who doesn’t yell obscenities at me, but celebrates with me by arriving on my doorstep with roses!