“I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion.”
Henry David Thoreau
Do you love being in a crowd? Do you thrive on the energy of being in the middle of a throng of excited people? When you hear about an event like New Year's eve in Times Square, or a million person march on the Washington mall, or Mardi Gras in New Orleans, do you quickly book a flight? I know people who do. People who would rather be mashed together in a crowd of strangers at the Super Bowl than spend an evening alone in front of their own TV. I am not that person. The older I get, the more like Thoreau I am. I like my solitude.
It's ironic, then, that in the midst of what should be the loneliness of my “golden years” I am cramped, crowded and chaotic. At the moment, both my grown kids, my daughter-in-law and their four dogs are in my house. One is trying to move out, but had surgery a few weeks ago and still can't lift anything over 30 lbs. The other has a busted furnace in the midst of the coldest snap of ice and snow we've seen in a decade. Of course, all the dogs live in the house, too, and one of those just had surgery on her leg and requires special attention and medication. Add to that a busy ebay shipping center in my basement, and there's hardly room to move. How did that happen?
Here's what I think: the universe gives you what you need, not what you want. And, of course, there's the business of boundary maintenance--or lack thereof. I honestly don't know any parent, however, who would deny their grown children a roof over their heads in a snow storm—well, maybe a few. One friend of mine has his son and daughter-in-law, their four kids and a dog living in his house. So much for the quietude of old age.
Our generation, the one that moved far away from family in order to get the best job, has grown accustomed to living in isolation with their nuclear family, and no one else—but that was not the custom even a generation ago. My grandmother lived with us my entire childhood. My great aunts all lived together, and even took in boarders. If somebody lost a job or needed a place to stay, come on in. It's still that way in most of the world. And it's becoming more so right here, right now. It's called helping each other out. It's called hospitality. I keep remembering the Bible story of Abraham and the strangers. He implored them to come in and stay a while, allow him to feed them and hear all the news they brought. Those strangers were messengers from God, who told Abraham that his old wife, Sarah, would conceive a child. They turned out to be a blessing.
Hospitality is something I sorely need to learn. I won't do it on my own, so the universe has conspired to provide a crowd to teach me. Give me my solitary pumpkin, I say. No—sit here on this crowded cushion, my friend, and learn to trust God. I wonder what lessons the universe is teaching you.
In the Spirit,