This week was homecoming for the high school my two girls attend. Since we live in what is essentially a small town in the middle of a large city, some small town events still occur. One of them is the annual homecoming parade. It occurs at 4:00 in the afternoon and travels about 2 miles up the main street of the town. It is led by the town police cruiser and the big ladder truck from the fire department.
This year, the fire department had a piece of the world trade center in the back of a pick-up truck, a sober reminder of our recent past as a nation.
The parade continued with a collection of school teams, girl scouts, service clubs and school officials. My daughter, who is on the school dance team, marched by with a smile on her face, and pom-poms in her hand.
My wife has attended this parade every year since our kids have been in it. This was my first time. As I stood watching, I wondered to myself, why have I never been here before? A flood of easy answers emerged.
• It’s at 4 in the afternoon for crying out loud. How is a working man supposed to get there?
• I have been out of town on business several of those times.
• It’s a dorky little parade, certainly less important than the work I do every day.
You probably get the point. It was unimportant, and therefore not worth the effort.
As it happened, this year I had a meeting at a location close to my house during the afternoon. It ended in time for me to get home and go with my wife to the parade. I allowed myself the luxury, which is kind of new for me. I changed into some shorts, got the dog, and we headed to a prime spot along the route to watch. We were a bit early, so we found some shade and visited. There were dozens of kids running around and playing. They came up one after another to pet the dog and tell us about their dog, whether it was bigger or smaller, fluffy or short haired, and what its name was. As soon as they were there, they were gone again to play.
It was in this time, separated from the hub bub or our normal day, that my wife and I settled on a plan for a very important event coming up in our family life. This would normally have been discussed at 11pm at night in bed, my wife unsure of which way to go and me impatient to turn off the light that was piercing into my eyes. It was also in this moment that a friend saw us from across the street. She told me a couple of days later about what she saw. She said this:
“I saw you with your wife and dog at the parade. You looked so relaxed and peaceful. I thought to myself that I wished I could be like you guys, taking the time to walk your dog to the parade and hang out like that”.
I thought to myself, if she only knew what my day, my wife’s day, our lives in the recent months, were like. Our situation is anything but peaceful, mostly related to the difficulty of business in the current economic climate, and how that pours down into every sector of our world. The uncertainty and frustration tear into the fabric of our lives, and we don’t do so well sometimes. Considering that, I certainly could not justify taking the afternoon off in the midst of everything I need to be doing. It was unimportant after all.
Yet, there I was. And there God was. And through a friend he reminded me of something I had said a few months ago, related to my life. I am peaceful in the midst of frustration. That is definitely new, and it is only available with more trust in God. It is God who has wooed me out of my default to control, and chides me when I stray back there. It is God who has spoken a larger story into my heart that overrides the demands of a small world of crisis management, and it is God who showed me the excited faces of my wife and daughter when I said I could come to the parade.
I want to fight for more of that; for more of God; for more life in a larger story; for more parades. So it is that I figured out this week that a small town parade can be a pretty important thing after all. Who knew?