“Can you come here and hold something for me?” I asked Marnell the other evening during an intense organization of the house. I was trying to visualize what the wall would look like with a piece of art hanging above the roll-top desk.
“As long as it’s not a conversation,” he replied cheerfully and then began to laugh as I protested at his pun, even though I had to admit it was funny.
All winter and spring long, we’ve been working on the house, organizing and moving and selling. We’ve arranged furniture and re-arranged, and concluded that there is no possible aesthetic solution. We’ve hauled boxes of sound equipment and held committee meetings about how to store them, and bought IKEA wardrobe units which actually work quite nicely.
Living is just really complicated, I think, and it seems that almost all of our energy is consumed by this. First the wedding plans, then house plans, all fun, but all exhausting. In my head, it seems like we can’t help other people or do much ministry until we get through all of this. Perhaps, during certain seasons of life, an aspect of that is true.
Then, we put the freezer up for sale.
Because Marnell had a full-size chest freezer, we sold my smaller one on Facebook marketplace. After two prospective buyers failed to show up, a lean man in a black Chevy pickup rolled up to Brady Street. Because it appeared that the first prospective buyer had driven away when he saw what neighborhood we lived in, I had warned this man. I was glad I had, because our neighbors had a large mountain of post-flood trash on their curb and things looked generally tough.
It was the first warm night of the year and Marnell and I sat on the porch, waiting for the buyer and digesting the tasty hot dogs Marnell had grilled to initiate our new grill from Dr. Halloran. I had asked the buyer via Facebook message if he could come the previous night, but he said he was working a double that day.
Since the freezer was in the back, we asked him to drive to the corner and come in the back alley. Again, I was glad I had warned him, since, if possible, the back alley view is worse than the front, and often the site of piles of crumpled empty beer cans, and the less frequent pig roasting in a copper pot.
We exchanged pleasantries, and after a glance he said he would take the freezer.
“How was your double shift?” I asked.
“Oh, you know,” he said, “tough, but I made it through.”
“Where do you work?” I asked as he and Marnell positioned the freezer.
“Actually, I’m a state trooper,” he said.
“That’s why when you said you live in a tough neighborhood… I used to work in Gary and Hammond. Elkhart doesn’t scare me.”
They carried the freezer out to our porch and the man jumped to the truck bed as Marnell handled the one side of the freezer.
“Just so you know, I have an artificial leg,” Marnell told him.
“I got it,” he said, pulling it the rest of the way.
“You must go to the gym pretty faithfully,” Marnell commented.
“Well, I try,” he said.
We chit-chatted a bit about the speed-estimating tests state troopers must pass and he told us that they must be able to estimate speeds within 2-3mph.
“I’ve been told that state troopers are really good drivers,” I said.
“Well, yes, our driving training is a lot more intense than the standard training,” he agreed.
“Like high speed driving,” I suggested.
“Right. What a lot of people don’t understand is that when you drive at high speeds, most people get tunnel vision. You only focus on what’s right ahead of you. And as a state trooper, there’s so much more then that that we need to focus on. We need to be aware of other cars, and what’s around us.”
He put a strap over the freezer, and thanked us.
“Thanks for showing up,” I said.
How much is our frenetic American pace just like fast driving! The faster we go with our schedules, the less perspective we have on our surroundings and the other people around us. We miss the neatly planted scenery, the baby calves in pastures, the sunlight glinting gold on the water.
As I philosophized, I thought about the freezer again.
“Maybe we should have checked with our friends to see if any of them wanted the freezer?” I said.
I had checked with our friend Lloyd from whom it originated, and since they didn’t want it back, I posted it on Facebook hoping to get rid of it quickly. Haste, speed, action.
“Is that where your tunnel vision comes in?” Marnell asked.
“Probably,” I said.
Part of me wants to insist that the only solution is to slow down, and certainly that is a part of the solution.
But the state trooper’s words remind me that it is possible to train and get better at handling a frantic pace, and notice those around you more, even as the scenery flashes past.
So I will need to keep training, and I’m so grateful for Marnell in this process, and his in-born sense of the value of relationships, and his good humor in the midst of house-setting-up and picture hanging.
I’m grateful, even if he doesn’t want to hold a conversation with me!