A friend gave me a wheelbarrow last month. I was helping her prepare her house for sale in Worthington. We worked in the yard together, and she offered me a few pots, a little water fountain, and even dug up a Lenten rose for me to transplant to my front yard. She cares for her longtime partner, Chuck, and had left him with caregivers in their Florida home. The coronavirus had given her the opportunity to determine she no longer wanted to keep up two homes. And coming here for the summer with Chuck was unthinkable this year. Her family is in Florida, so it’s the right decision. I will miss them both here in Ohio.
The wheelbarrow had belonged to Chuck’s mother and since Chuck is in his 80s, I considered myself the recipient of a family heirloom. Before we lifted this little gem into the back of my car, she tutored me on how to inch a bag of mulch just off the end of the trunk and into the little wheelbarrow where it could be rolled where I needed it in the lawn.
So, there you have it. I am a woman of a certain age taking instruction and needing to think about and adjust what I do with the circumstance of my age and physical limitations. I am a few weeks away from one of those BIG birthdays. Never mind. There will be no party, no parade, maybe fireworks.
The little wheelbarrow has come in handy in my yard. I’ve been thinning out a tall hedge of shrubs that partially frame my back patio. Me and my gigantic trimmers have been lopping off branches at the ground level so I can pull the long heavy stems with green tops out to the yard to chop in smaller pieces for the weekly pickup. It’s been good exercise. Given all that is going on in the world, it’s been rather therapeutic. I can’t do much about all the injustice, protests, economic downfall and spread of disease, but I can go to town on an old woody shrub.
Truth is I have never spent so much time at home or in my yard as now. As a pastor over the past 28 years, I have probably spent more total time in other people’s yards than my own. Especially if you count porches. As a hospice chaplain in this county for eight years, I heard a lot of stories as I sat with folks in their final months.
Stories help us be human. In times of sorrow, and in the presence of great joy, celebrants and mourners alike share their stories with others. But especially in times of trouble. Deep dark trouble. Trouble like we have now. Times when a miracle is needed. Times when the limits of human ability are reached. That’s when, down through the ages, people have turned to storytelling to comfort themselves and to explore the holy mysteries of “Who are we?; Why are we here?; and Where is God?” These are spiritual questions and that is why we need spiritual stories and spiritual solutions.
We need to honor and lift up our flaws, our failures, our limits. Without the gap between our imperfections and results, there would be no stories.
And in the telling, experience is shared and hope is offered. Stories come out of our experience of the past, but they also give us hope and courage to move into the uncharted waters of our future.
Life is a mystery. Each day is a new beginning, or maybe a middle or an end.
The Rev. Patricia Stout is a retired Presbyterian pastor and a substitute teacher in the Delaware City School District. For further reading on the subject of stories and imperfection she suggests: “The Spirituality of Imperfection, Storytelling and the Search for Meaning,” by Ernest Kurtz and Katherine Ketchum, 1992.