Just got home from the high school where Beve works. Periodically he asks me to come in and meet with students who are working on their college essays. I've been doing this for years--in fact, back in our Tacoma days, I actually got paid for this work. But that's before even E's memory (I don't want to cast aspersions, but she inherited her father's memory), and even I have forgotten what it's like to get paid for such editing. I keep doing it though. Keeps me sharp, allows me interaction with kids. Bonus, bonus. So this morning there I was, waiting for these nervous high school seniors, for whom everything in the universe rests on these two page essays. Well, that and SAT scores, GPAs, and teacher/counselor recommendations.
But this morning, only one of the three students was actually in the building. Beve tracked down their classes, one at a time (unfortunately pulling the wrong girl out of a Math class. Whoops!), but they weren't there. And the single boy who showed up simply put his essays on Beve's desk and began to walk away. "You're here to meet with me," I told him. "But I'm in AP Spanish," he answered. "Can I just come back and get it later?" I nodded. I mean, who am I to get in the way of AP Spanish? These are the things that will make or break his life, after all. Or so he thinks now. He--and all the other anxious seventeen and eighteen year olds can't imagine the day--not so far in the future--when nobody cares how they did in AP anything. And they don't understand that their college essays only count for a single day--the day they're read by those university admissions officers who decide 'yay' or 'nay'. After that, those carefully crafted essays, which I assist in perfecting (or somewhere in that vicinity, if possible) might as well be filed in the recycle bin. Done and done.
But then we're all pretty short-sighted, when it comes to that. We take ourselves and our petty concerns sooo seriously. We think that whatever we're engaged in today, this week, this month have huge implications for the world. But mostly what we do--our occupations--are, as Beve would call them, "Our pile of peanuts." This allusion comes from our two-month time in New Delhi, India back in our pre-marriage, pre-anything but friends days. Every day as we walked toward the bus that would take us downtown to our ministry sites, we'd see men sitting on the streets in front of tiny fires and piles of peanuts which they were peddling. Beve observed how seriously they took their work, how important it was that they had those piles to make their living from. I'd like to point out, though, that Beve could have called this metaphor "Our pile of ear wax," because we also saw men with small trays of said wax, along with strange retrieval devices for the procurement of such wax, but you'll be relieved to know that neither of us, nor any of our housemates never availed ourselves of this wax-removal service.
But our pile of peanuts. We all have them. The work we are called to, no matter how earth-shaking or trivial. The next step toward those jobs if we're students. But in one sense, most of our decisions aren't all that critical. Which car to buy, what to have for dinner, what to write on a college essay...yes, they matter. But no they don't. If that makes sense. They're our pile of peanuts.
However, there are also things that count. Things that are as far from a pile of peanuts as one could get. How to treat those around us, especially to those we do not naturally care for. How we respond to adversities and how we live when the chips are down. Especially who we are when we're alone in the dark and don't have our public faces on. What we hold onto when we're alone in the dark--what we hold against each other.
My sister-in-love, G-J, whom I wrote about yesterday, slipped into a coma late last night. We're on our way south in the next half an hour to be with her if this is the end. And it makes me take seriously only those things that last. At times like this, I'm ready to dump those pile of peanuts. And then it occurs to me that that's how I should live all the time--with that pile of peanuts held very, very lightly, so that I'm only serious about what lasts.
"His voice shook the earth, but now He has promised, 'Once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.' The words, 'once more' indicate the removing of what can be shaken--that is, created things--so that what cannot be shaken may remain." Hebrews 12: 26-27