Working It July, 2017
Going to the Carlsbad bluff tops to watch the sunset is always a treat for me. On this Monday evening in July it was packed with tourists who had paid plenty to fly in from all over the world to see what cost me a four-mile drive in my own car. Surrounded by words in Danish, Chinese, French, Canadian, and Brazilian, I almost missed a little, one-man play on the beach below me.
There a ten-year-old boy had found a stick and was poking around in the bushes. He settled on a stand of bamboo and decided to see if he could break it apart. He was successful with his first assault and by the time he had finished, half of the stalks of these beautiful plants were leveled. As he tore and separated each stem, he walked twenty feet away and lay them in a pile. It was a lot of work for a young boy, and he was at it for almost an hour. Finished with the chopping, he gathered the canes up and carried them fifty yards more to his beach towel.
The boy’s father was playing volleyball and barely kept track of all this. To him, the pile of bamboo must have seemed to suddenly appear between side outs. As dusk approached and the brilliant colors shot into the clouds, they finished the game and started packing up to leave. Within minutes they were gone and only the pile of bamboo stems and leaves were left to mark what had happened. As the boy headed out he never once looked back at the pile.
We adults hack away at the resources around us; we collect, we pile things up, we transport, and we pay to store things that we will never use again. Some of it is necessary and some of it is useless overachieving. We do it all because it is expected of us. It gives us a temporary sense of accomplishment. We attempt to create an image for others to respect or we fear the future and stockpile against all possible outcomes.
Ultimately the day comes when Our Father says it is time to leave this beach and head home. He doesn’t let us take any of our largesse with us because the sand clinging to it is an affront to the beauty of where we are headed. The old dead collections of things we thought we needed get sent to Goodwill and sell for a tenth of what we thought they were worth.
So, between now and then, I intend to enjoy the bamboo in its natural condition. I can admire a new Jaguar convertible without owning it. My pledge is to be happy with the blessings I have now. I promise not to leave a pile of once-read, forever-shelved books for my kids to go through after I am gone, but instead give them to folks who can use them now. I can move along life’s road more quickly with a smaller baggage train. When that final trip comes, I will not have one single carry-on, and my work here will be finished.