You Are That Man! Hope for the One Who Feels Overwhelmed

I’m thinking about my friend K, who is carrying a lot on his shoulders these days, and who I’m sure feels as if he’s taken on too much, certainly more than he can handle. He hasn’t come to me for advice, nor would I expect him to, as there are many other friends on his first line of defense. Although I love him dearly, I’m more like the aunt who lives far away.

But if you ever DID ask what I thought K, I’d probably answer with a story (because I’m a storyteller after all) and I’d put you right smack in the middle of it.

I’d tell you to think of yourself as a Dad, sitting at the Saturday morning breakfast table with your 5-year-old son. You’ve just announced it’s leaf-raking day, and his eyes light up like sparklers.

“Oh, Daddy, let me help!”

You say yes, of course. You don’t need his help, and you can probably get the job done much more quickly without his help, but this will be good for him. Teach him about responsibility. Man’s work. Besides, you so deeply enjoy that bonding time.

To the garage you go, you and your little man. You pick out the lightest rake for him, and direct him to the small, level strip of ground beside the mailbox. He starts smacking that ground with gusto, and leaves fly.

“Hold on, son! You might want to try flipping that thing over.” You demonstrate how to use the rake’s teeth and he gives you that grin that never fails to melt your heart.

“Like this?” He pulls exactly four leaves toward his feet.

“Exactly like that.” You smile and watch him joyfully attack his adversaries, and then you turn to tackle the slope with all the bushes, dislodging a mountain of leaves from beneath the tangled mass of roots and shoots.

You pause to check on your little man, who is now holding his small rake horizontally, balancing a pile of leaves as he brings them across the yard.

“Watch this, Dad!” He shoots the leaves upward, laughing as they fall down upon his head.

You laugh with him and return to your work, prying the wet leaves away from the curb. A little later he calls you to come inspect a wooly caterpillar, clearly ready for winter in his thick brown and black coat. The two of you watch together, heads touching, marveling at nature’s ways as the caterpillar forms a tight ball.

You tussle his hair and stand. All that’s left is the area along the driveway. It’s the toughest part because navigating the delicate flower bulbs is somewhat tricky, but you’re enjoying the day so much you have no trouble slowing down to pull some leaves out by hand. Your son starts singing a silly song and you join in.

These are the good times, you think to yourself.

Finally, you’ve amassed a pile for bagging. Your little man takes one look at it and his shoulders sag as he realizes his area is still not complete.

“Whoa buddy, what’s wrong?” You nearly break when you see the tears welling in those beautiful innocent eyes.

He sniffs and wipes his eyes with his sleeve. “Daddy, I wanted to do a good job for you, but I didn’t do anything right.” He gives his small pile a disdainful kick.

“Oh I don’t know about that.” You kneel down to look him in the eye, recognizing the yearning heart and the self-condemnation. “My man, you were great company today, and you made me laugh, and you did make this pile of leaves, which helps more than you know.”

You take his hands and press your large callused palms against his soft pink ones.

“These little hands made that little pile, and the big hands made the big pile. The important thing is, we did it together. When your hands get bigger, they will do more work, but for now, you did just enough. Besides…” You glance at the pile…“We’re not done yet.”

He nods and sniffs again, walking over to yank a lawn bag from the box by the trash can. But when he returns, you kneel again, take the bag from his hands, and set it aside.

“What, are you nuts?” You lift him and carry him to the pile. “How often do you get an opportunity to jump into such an incredibly PERFECT landing pad?”

Giggling, he squirms out of your arms and grabs your hand. Together you fly into the pile in a bundle of side-splitting laughter and start throwing leaves at each other. Finally, as you lie side-by-side, panting, your little man reaches for your hand and again gives you his famous, heart-melting grin.

“I love you, Daddy.”

You sigh, letting those precious words settle over your heart.

It’s been a good day.

————–

handsNow K, I know you can relate to this story, because I know you’re a great dad and you’ve had days like this. So I want to remind you to see yourself in this scenario. Read it again and really see yourself, because, my friend, You Are That Man.

No, silly, not Dad. That’s God.

You are the Little Man.

God’s Little Man.

And don’t you forget it.

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His delight is not in the strength of the horse, nor his pleasure in the legs of a man, but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love. – Psalm 147:10-11

 

 

 

 

 

 

Me, Myself, and Sigh: A Grammarian’s Plea

Happy Grammar Day, everyone! That’s right, once again it’s the Word Nerds’ favorite observance, March 4th, the only date on the calendar that’s also an imperative. This is the one day of the year, aside from National Punctuation Day, when I can risk letting loose the annoying grammar critic I keep bound and gagged in the recesses of my brain.

You see, on most days, it takes all I’ve got to NOT correct people’s grammar. I like my friends, and I hate it when they look at me in that mathy way that says, “Keep away from me with that preposition stuff or I’ll cite an algebraic equation!”

So, for the sake of friendship and social protocol, throughout the rest of the year I seethe in silence when I see ads for “grass-fed steak,” and cringe quietly at news reporters when they rant about the “scarce” shelves at the grocery store. And, although, when I read on the side of the restaurant hot sauce bottle, “All sauces made on premise,” I might show it to those at my table, I don’t bring it to the manager or post a picture of it online accompanied by a snarky sneering comment.

Okay, those examples are not about grammar, but word choice. I’m not sure I should pick on poor word choice, even if there were such an event as National Word Choice Day (I checked. There isn’t. Yet.), because my own vocabulary is diminishing at a fear-inducing rate. Every day, words that have been trusted friends in my brain for decades leap overboard into the River of Old Age and float away like dead leaves along its fast-moving current. One day soon I’ll forget the word for, er… what’s that thing that makes the thingy noise?

Word choice aside, true grammar errors would be more like the Buffalo Bills’ announcement in January that they’d hired their “first full-time female coach.” To me, that’s personal information irrelevant to the story. The aspect of this press release that hurt my heart most deeply was that so many media venues repeated it verbatim; NOT ONE thought to change it to “first female full-time coach,” or better (word choice issue again), the team’s “first woman full-time coach.”

However, I’m not going to waste this year’s soap-box time on the usual rant about misplaced modifiers; the “they’re, their, and there” battle; “it’s” vs. “its”; or even “that” vs. “which,” an oft-made error that grates on my nerves like knuckle skin across asphalt.

Instead, this year’s fulmination (snatched that word out of the river because it got hung up on a mid-stream boulder, heh-heh) is about three simple pronouns we learned before Kindergarten that for some reason we have no idea when to employ: Me, myself, and I.

We seem to have developed a phobia around using the words “me” and “I,” and we’ve started boldly inserting “myself” into statements the way one might push forward a socially awkward niece in hopes of hooking her up with a blind date:

“See Martha or myself after the meeting and we’ll take your information.”

“Give your surveys to myself before you leave.”

“You’ll get an e-mail from Bob or I about that.”

Well, to all of you who have fallen into these habits, I say…

Stop it.

Stop Myself-ing

Give myself a rest, wouldja?

I blame your mom and grandma, bless their hearts. They screwed you up back when you were a wee one running into the kitchen yelling, “Can Danny and me go out to play?”

“Danny and I,” they chastised, sliding the chicken in the pot.

Did they stop to explain that it had nothing to do with referring to yourself as me, but that, as the subject of the sentence you use the pronoun “I”?

They did not. Nor did they explain that you use “me” as the object of the preposition. They were too worried about that stupid chicken to consider the long-term effects of their incomplete correction.

Over the years, their failure to explain left you not only fearful of the word “me,” and unsure when to use it, but oblivious and untrusting of “mysterious” grammar terms (fess up, seeing the words “object,” “subject,” and “preposition” there made your brain shudder).

Frankly, your friend, Danny, didn’t help either. If he hadn’t been there, you would have had no problem asking, “Can I go out to play?” And Grandma wouldn’t have corrected you.

So, here’s the secret: You don’t need to know the grammar terms. When you want to know whether to use “me” or “I,” get your friend out of the picture. Hence, the e-mail example above would be “You’ll get an e-mail from me,” which is correct. Once you’ve determined the correct pronoun, bring the friend back into the sentence and relax; it’s still correct.

But what about “myself”? For the most part, you can toss it. In fact, the only time one would use that word would be in a sentence that also has the word “I” in it, such as, “I gave myself a raise.” Simple, right?

There ends today’s grammar lesson. I hope I’ve made a positive difference in your grammar, and not worsened your brain-shudder effects. I’ll get off my soap box now until Punctuation Day, and then, boy, is your serial going to get it!

Now, I’m going to celebrate by erasing all the erroneous apostrophes in the grocery store. Could take all day.

Piece!

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Instruct the wise and they will be wiser still; teach the righteous and they will add to their learning. –Proverbs 9:9