The day started off as if it were going to be one of those days.
I walked into the kitchen to find the receptionist at the inn looking frantically for rags because someone (I never did find out who) had split a can of stain on the stairs. Luckily, it was the same color as the stairs, but it still had to be cleaned up. Then the bartender, who is the only one working in the pub at lunch, didn’t show up until five minutes after the pub was supposed to open. We were all in a bit of a panic by that time. It was about then I actually said, “This feels like it’s going to be one of those days.”
Several years ago, when the Red Sox were in the midst of an even more disappointing season than the one we just lived through, Ginger and I were at Fenway Park. Not only were we getting beaten, but the game was also boring. It was also a Saturday afternoon and the Fenway Faithful were a bit restless. Somewhere around the fifth inning, I think, a woman jumped over the wall and ran on to the field to hug one of the players. A few minutes later, someone else – a man, if I remember – also made a run across the diamond. Within the next couple of innings, the fans had more base runners than the Sox. After about the fifth or sixth interloper, there was a palpable moment when you could feel almost everyone thinking, “If we all went, they couldn’t stop us.”
We flinched, the moment passed, and we all went home talking about how we almost stormed the field.
Somewhere around noon today, it felt as though we could have jumped the fence and ridden the day down into some sort of absurd catastrophe, but we didn’t do it and the moment passed. What began with a hint of a small apocalypse shifted and stayed in the ordinary. Today was a good day partially, at least, because we chose not to believe otherwise.
There’s a level of crisis in our daily lives that gets way too much attention. We can get worked up about it, or we can figure out how to keep going. Our receptionist, to her credit, was frantically looking for rags so she could clean up the mess. The stain was water based. It took some time, but nothing was irrevocably damaged. The bartender’s tardiness was annoying, but we didn’t have any customers for the first forty-five minutes we were open, so his error was harmless, though I want him to be on time next week.
Anyone who has spent anytime in church, whether member or minister, understands the kind of holy hysteria that can take hold when a little thing is allowed to become a big thing for no apparent reason other than we can’t (won’t?) stop ourselves. Churches often spend more time haranguing about what color to paint the walls in the Parish Hall than they do talking about mission. When I was in seminary, I remember a seasoned minister saying, “When it comes to budgets, make your requests big. You’ll get a unanimous vote if you ask for $10,000; you’ll end up in an all night discussion if you ask for $100.” The small decisions and responses in life are important and they’re still small. Sometimes we need help finding a sense of context. Before I started writing tonight, I punched around on the news links I have here. The BBC had an article about how people in India and Pakistan were getting on one year after the deadly earthquake that hit their region of the world. Seventy five thousand people died. A year later, four hundred thousand people are still without permanent shelter as they head into their second winter.
We spilt stain on the stairs and the bartender was five minutes late. See what I mean?
When I got home tonight, I told Ginger I had a good day, and I did. The first hour was not much of a harbinger of things to come. I didn’t even tell the folks who came to work in the afternoon what had happened. I just cooked and swapped lines from Stripes with Robert in the kitchen.
It wasn’t one of those days after all.