Where This Meets That
A few days ago, my 6-year-old son returned to the house from an imaginative summertime adventure in our back yard. He moseyed into the kitchen, curly brown hair a sweaty frame around his angel face, and sat down with a pleasant sigh. Gazing out the window, he declared to his mother, “I love being a boy!”
I’ve reflected on my son’s simple proclamation over the past few days, and its perfect innocence has deeply touched me. As I’ve grown, and as is the case with most people, the gravity of daily life has fought to displace such simple notions in my being.
The roof is leaking. The car needs fixing. Conference calls crawl into evening. Etc..
I’ve worked at my current job now for over a decade. A quarter of life gone by in the bat of an eye. This week, many of my co-workers with whom I have worked, laughed, and even cried a little during that period will walk out the door for the last time, accepting an early retirement package from our employer.
Many of my departing friends and co-workers were not ready to retire. It was only after much number crunching and soul-searching that they calculated it was the wisest choice, the “carrot” of buffer pay versus the “stick” of impending layoffs with packages guaranteed to be less sweet.
It’s business. I get it. And presumably I, too, will “get it” sooner or later.
And so, here in July’s heat, my son’s words chime extra clear through the air like the Pavlovian bell of the ice cream man. They carry me back to the summers of my youth, to a time that embodied life and that now carries on in my own children.
Trading the ice cream man handfuls of jingling quarters for frozen red, white, and blue Bombpops. Asphalt burning blisters on my uncaring bare feet. Perfectly still unbroken blue water of the swimming pool before morning swim lessons. Walking to the pool almost daily with my friends. Catching snakes and lizards in the woods. Badminton in the back yard. Lightning bugs and playing Jail Break at dusk.
Jesus was right: kids have it down.
How on earth can we find any sustainable joy by enslaving ourselves to the daily grind? How does the gravity of the daily grind grow so out of proportion with the lightness of just being?
What’s funny is that childhood lasts an eternity for those inside it, while adulthood flies comparatively by. The entire month of June for a child of five is the equivalent of a mere three-day weekend for a 50-year-old. One would think that getting older would therefore give us an improved perspective. But of course, aging brings its own baggage of responsibility and a growing awareness of a window shrinking.
These burdens can drag moments out immeasurably and make challenges incomparably more daunting. But ultimately, we are all left with the same thing we’ve had since the beginning: moments. And moments, be they precious or precarious, are always opportunities.
On this Independence Day, my hope for all my departing colleagues is that they recognize this moment for the opportunity it is. I hope they take the opportunity to pursue every next moment with passion. And if they find no passion in the opportunities at hand, I pray that they take the liberty to create such opportunities for themselves.
More than anything, I hope they find themselves declaring during some moment of retirement, “I love being me!”