Homecoming

“The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Praise the name of Yahweh” (Jb 1:21).

It’s a truth I rediscovered in convalescence from the sickness.

I didn’t have much strength — or patience — for the busy work of life that has occupied my time since being dragged kicking and screaming into adulthood after college. So I found pleasure in the small, quiet things — God’s tender mercies.

Like drives through small towns. People think you can learn a lot by seeing the Big City.

But the problem is that the Big City offers so much that you can’t focus.

A small town is willing to give you the whole picture at your own pace.

The Big City is Twitter. A small town is a book.

I was on the road just a few weeks back, killing some afternoon time with a relaxing drive. I was at the last traffic light — the only traffic light — in a little town a few country miles from where I live.

A school bus pulled out up ahead. It was that time.

I’d be caught in back of the unpassable bus as it dropped off its charges house-to-house at the shank of the school day.

I could have taken a side road to bypass the operation. But I decided to accept things as they were.

The Lord gives.

The bus pulls up to a house with a white fence and a rose garden. Grandma is out front and a little girl runs from the bus steps to an enveloping hug. Grandma points out something in the garden and they lean in close. Two souls have actually stopped to smell the roses.

Up ahead is a tableau Norman Rockwell would have paid money to paint. A young man and a young woman wait together on the lawn for the bus to stop. He holds a little one on his arm, as she’s a few years shy of school age. The house with the small front porch in back of them is older than the three of them combined, including the boy who saunters up, backpack dragging behind, to complete the portrait.

It looks like an older brother at the next place, waiting in the driveway. Baggy pants, baseball cap on backwards, he’s working not-too-effectively on a beard. His sister comes from the bus, a middle-schooler. He gives her a smile and she returns it as his arm goes lightly over her shoulders. They turn to walk to the house together. The conversation begins.

Grandpa is in the shade under a low-hanging tree. He’s sitting on his old riding mower and he’s wearing a slough hat like an Aussie soldier from World War I. What has to be a 10-year-old bounds off the bus and comes over to the mower and they both point here and there at this part and that. Getting the old machine going might have been a summer project they shared.

Shade from the trees blocks the view of whoever is waiting for the two girls. They are sisters, one head-and-shoulders taller than the other. They are greeted by two dogs running full tilt, tails wagging, tongues lolling. It’s been a long and boring day without them.

A young mom greets the next little guy. He’s got a paper crown on his head, a scissors-and-glue project from first grade. He’s running and pointing to it. Mom is reacting like he has shown up with a king’s ransom.

Louie Armstrong sang it a long time ago: “I think to myself, what a wonderful world.”

The bus turns. and I decide to stay on the straight-and-narrow.

I have discovered in my wanderings that it’s very easy to misplace yourself on side roads. It’s time to go home.

Praise the name of Yahweh.

(Author’s note: I felt your prayers every day. Thank you and God bless.)

Robert P. Lockwood writes from Pennsylvania.