Thursday, June 15, 2017

Graduation day excitement (and a new beginning for the Shafer family blog)

It has been on my mind to start blogging again.  In the last week or so, I had started to consider what I might write that could possibly bridge the gap of years between my last post and this one.

Then yesterday happened.

For starters, my precious daughter graduated from High School.  Here she is in her cap and gown.  Isn’t she just … AMAZING?  

That event, along with last weekend’s graduation party, have reduced my emotions into a puddle of nostalgic goo.  Somewhere in my brain Amanda will always be that little girl in the yellow dress who wants nothing more than to go for a wagon ride and get an ice cream cone at the shop a couple blocks away.  Sigh.  Those days are long gone.

I could go on and on, and Amanda would deserve every loving word I could string together, and then some. But, I fear, that is not what will make yesterday memorable.

You see, we had a simple plan.  I would shuttle Amanda and four other passengers to the high school in our big, 12 passenger van.  My wife would follow in a second car after dropping off Leo (our youngest) in the care of friends, and shuttle the additional members of our party to the school.

So, off I went in the big red van.  We got about a quarter of the way to the school when … the van DIED.  I mean it was a quick and sudden death.  We were just slowly approaching a busy intersection and then the needles on the dashboard went crazy, and then … dead.  I had no way to pull over and there we were, a big red clot obstructing a full lane of a busy arterial road.

If, in that moment, you could have heard my thoughts, they would have heard something like this, all in overlapping rapid succession.

"What’s happening?  Why is this happening? Why won’t this thing start?  Am I out of gas?  How could I be out of gas?  I should pray now.  It’s the battery!  Is it the battery?  It’s sort of the battery. Alternator.  Can I get a jump?  Will a jump work?  How can I get a jump?  Will Amanda miss her own graduation?  If she does, it’s my fault.  Oh, God help.  Will I miss Amanda’s graduation?  Father’s Day is Sunday.  This is a busy street.  This is dangerous.  How am I going to fix this?"

In that moment, I was powerless.  I was powerless to get my daughter to her own high school.   I was powerless to move that hulk of a vehicle.

Help came in many forms.  The hero in that moment was my Dad (father in-law) who martialed the resources of an angelic stranger who somehow managed to pull his small car up alongside us on the curb. 

My daughter called my wife and she managed to get to us.  

While Dad was working his magic, I was busy reaching out to AAA who advised us to call 911 (because we were blocking traffic.)  My daughter called 911 who advised us to call AAA (because we needed a jump or tow.)  Great.

Meanwhile angel-guy just happened to have an extra-long pair of jumper cables that reached my battery.  A little fiddling and we got a jump and - low and behold - if I kept the engine at about 2000 rpms I could drive that hulking vehicle to safety…. And ultimately back home again.

Additional heroes in my story were -

  • Our friend Meagan who came to pick up Leo so that my wife could head straight to us.
  • My wife, who got Amanda plus additional passengers to the school.  She also masterfully determined who got to what car, with the right number of commencement tickets.
  • Suzy, my wonderful sister-in-law who drove Dad, me and the remaining passengers to the school (which, by the way, was packed with, I dunno, maybe 4000 people?)

The final outcome, we made it there.  We made it with 10 minutes to spare.  We sat down.  Then we realized we left the signs in the car trunk. 

I ran.  I got the signs. 

We got water-ice afterwards.  It was all good.

This is so significant for me because, as I noted before, I was helpless in that critical moment, and so many people and events conspired to make for a pretty happy ending to the day.

Here’s what stings me about all this. I am not good at receiving help.  I don’t like to be dependent on others.  And … sometimes … the predicament I am in is of my own doing. 

What made the whole van incident worse for me was that I had put a new battery in the van roughly 48 hours before.  I had misdiagnosed a problem with the vehicle as nothing more than a defective battery.  That conclusion is obvious… in hindsight.  It was a bad call. 

My personal devotions have me reading the Gospel of Luke these days.   Not too long ago I re-read the parable of the prodigal son, who ultimately had to approach his father and say, essentially, “I don’t deserve it, Dad, but please take me back.”   (see Luke 15:18,19)

Then there is Zacchaeus, the man I read about this morning. (Luke 19:1-8) He "came up short" ... literally!  His best efforts to get close to God was to climb a tree to get so he could better see and hear what Jesus had to say.  That was a close as this notorious tax collector dared to get.  But Jesus had a better plan.

This processes of acknowledging your need for help, and then being willing to receive it from God is all throughout scripture. 

Yesterday’s van trouble was a lesson for me.  I was powerless, and I needed help.  Help came.  And, as much as I dislike it, I know it won’t be the last time for me.  All of us, sooner or later, in spite of our best efforts, come to the end of our own self-reliance.  Learning that, in both the physical and spiritual realms, is a life-long process. 

Apparently, God decided I needed a reminder.    

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