Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Lost Luggage


A few years ago, I flew to Washington, D. C. for a conference.  As the plane approached Washington, the pilot informed us that a storm would delay our landing and, in the meantime, we would circle the airport until we were allowed to land. 

I could see that we were not the only plane in this predicament.  Behind us and in front of us were other planes, flying in one long circle over Reagan National Airport.  As we flew around and around, people began to curse under their breath and I heard a woman across the isle crying.  The pilot would occasionally announce that there was no change in the weather down below and we would continue to circle, which darkened the mood on the plane each time he made this announcement.

After we circled the airport for about an hour, the pilot cheerily announced that we were turning around and flying back to Charlotte, N. C. because we were nearly out of fuel.  The result of this bit of news caused a new, more energetic round of cursing and wailing and gnashing of teeth; as if the pilot and his crew were responsible for the weather.

After we landed in Charlotte and rolled to a stop, everyone jumped out of their seat at once in a race to grab their carry on bags, jostling one another to be the first off the plane.  But, more bad news awaited us at the baggage claim.  We were informed, after waiting for 30 minutes, that our luggage had successfully landed in Washington D. C. on a flight ahead of us.

Once this news spread, total chaos erupted.  People were cursing loudly, yelling at no one in particular or yelling directly at someone; people were running with their arms waiving wildly, eyes rolling, faces contorted.  There was a great deal of pushing and shoving; disrespect for other people was the rule.

But there was one exception; an island of peace in this sea of chaos.  A father had gathered his wife and two children together in a circle in the middle of this madness.  As I stood close by, I heard him say, “Let’s hold hands and pray.  Let’s thank God that we landed safely and that we have each other.  Let’s thank God for being with us on this flight and with us in this airport.”  And they stood together and prayed, as people all about them cursed and swirled in their anger and their confusion; an example of humility and respect in a crowd that had neither; a reflection of God’s love and peace in a world gone mad.

After I saw this and listened to their words of praise and thanks, the fact that my bags were in Washington and I was in Charlotte did not mean so much to me anymore.

Copyright ©Eric Lanier.  The right to download and store output of the materials from this website is granted for your personal use only, and materials may not be produced in any edited form. Any other reproduction or editing by any means, mechanical or electronic, without the express written permission of Eric Lanier is strictly prohibited. For additional information, contact Eric Lanier at ericelanier@gmail.com

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What is Love?

 In the movie Braveheart, Nicolette, a handmaid to the Princess of England, describes love in this way:  "A magistrate wished to capture him (William Wallace, played by Mel Gibson), and found he had a secret lover. So he cut the girl's throat to tempt Wallace to fight, and fight he did. Knowing his passion for his lost love, they next plotted to take him by desecrating the graves of his father and brother, and setting an ambush at the grave of his love. He fought his way through the trap and carried her body to a secret place. Now that's love, no? "

 I would say yes, that is love, but most of us do not have the opportunity to express our love in such a dramatic fashion.  Most of us express our love in thousands of ordinary, sometimes unseen, ways.

So, in honor of the people I love and of Valentine's Day, here is my definition of love.

Love is a kiss from your spouse in the morning;
A running hug from your children;
Love is a picture taped to your bedroom wall by your daughter;
Hearing your son say his prayers with his mother.

Love is a pair of worn out boots in a box in the attic
That you wore working your way through college;
It is a box of love letters;
A home movie.

Love is a family Bible with the record of births and deaths
and clippings between the pages.
Love is getting home late at night
and seeing the lights of your home shining through the windows.
Love is a warm fire in winter
and marshmallows roasting on coat hangers.
Love is hearing your children laugh
and knowing you made them laugh.

It is the way the wind blows trees;
The smell of a flower;
The touch of her hand.
The way she smiles;
The stars at night.
The moon in a black night sky.
A whispered word in the silent darkness.

Love is a science project involving insects and spiders;
A puppy with brown eyes brought home unexpectedly.
Love is the firm voice of a parent;
The denial of a privilege; a grounding.
It is doing the right thing
when you know it would be easier to let it slide.
Love is saying no.
Saying yes.
Saying maybe.
Love is letting go;
and holding on;
and easing up;
and bearing down.

Love is hurting when someone you care about hurts;
Crying when a friend cries;
Taking food to the home of someone who needs it.

Love is working thankless hours on unseen projects
and never being recognized but continuing to volunteer.

It is hearing your name in a conversation
and not worrying about what is being said.
Love is being seen and accepted at your very worst.

Love is a long walk;
A summer day that will never end.
Rain on a Saturday afternoon;
Two cups of coffee on the table;
A piece of cheese toast cut in half.

Love is the first good day of fall
when the air is crisp.
It is teaching your child to ride a bicycle
and seeing him wobble across the parking lot for the first time.
Love is a bumpy ride;

It is a hug when you need it.
A hug when you don't need it;
The holding of hands;
The sharing of small moments
And the caring of a lifetime.


Copyright ©2013 by Eric Lanier.  The right to download and store output of the materials from this website is granted for your personal use only, and materials may not be produced in any edited form. Any other reproduction or editing by any means, mechanical or electronic, without the express written permission of Eric Lanier is strictly prohibited. For additional information, contact Eric Lanier at ericelanier@gmail.com

Monday, February 11, 2013

Landing the Big One

 The weather was clear and cold and the stars shone above us as we cast our sausage baited hooks into the City Lake.  Beyond the lake, night traffic hummed on Sunset Avenue and the lights from the Exxon Station shimmered on the lake water.  The fountain in the middle of the lake alternated from white to red to blue to white.  The Mexican restaurant located in the nearby former power plant on the Tar River was full, and you could see the people sitting at tables and at the bar on the second story.  High-school kids cruised the road around the lake, driving in a one-mile circle for hours on end.  Some of them parked and sat on the hoods of their cars, smoking and talking and laughing.  Taking all this in, I wondered what I was doing in the middle of Rocky Mount at 10 o’clock on a November night.

“This is when the big ones bite.” Keith, my brother, told me.

Keith and I had fished in this lake when we were kids and had never caught anything but a few small bream.  I had never regarded it as a serious fishing lake and as I grew up I quit fishing there altogether.  The lake had been built during the depression as part of a downtown City Park and had been stocked with bream and crappie. And now Keith was telling me that it was a place to catch some large, trophy-size catfish.

“When they renovated the park, they stocked the lake with catfish.  Nobody has fished them for several years and some have gotten big.” he said.

We were using polish sausage that we bought from the grocery store as bait.  We sliced it and ran our hooks through it.  The smell of it made me hungry and I quickly threw it into the water as far as it would go into the red reflecting light of the fountain.  We stood in the dark, lines in the water, resting our elbows on the wood railing of the overlook. 

“This is the best spot.” said Keith.  There were six other overlooks around the lake.  But this was the best one. 

“Why?” I asked. 

“This is where we caught that big one I was telling you about.  There must be something they like in the water, like a stump, or a hole, or something.”

The “big one” that he had told me about was caught by one of the men who live at the group home where Keith was a part-time Resident Manager.  Keith had taken the “boys” (as he called these men) fishing one night several weeks before.  Keith had hooked a couple of large catfish and each time he pulled them out of the water, they would throw the hook out their mouths and splash back into the lake.  When Ronnie (one of the boys) hooked one, Keith was determined that they would land him, no matter how long it took.  He told Ronnie to let the fish run with the hook until he stopped.  Once he stopped, Keith took the line in his hands and slowly pulled it in toward him.  Every now and then the fish would pull and Keith would let it go until the fish stopped pulling, then Keith would start pulling again, slowly toward him. 

After an hour, the fish was exhausted and Keith pulled him up next to the shore.  Not having a net, and not wanting the fish to throw the hook again, he got a pair of pliers from his tackle box and reached down and grabbed the fish’s lip and yanked him onto the bank.  The catfish was 21 inches long and weighed about 8 pounds.  He had to fold him to get him into the cooler.  And since that time, that catfish was spoken of as “the big one”. 

“I have never seen Ronnie so happy.” said Keith.  “That was the first fish he had ever caught.

And so, on that November night, I thought about that story; of how on a cool, crisp autumn night, Keith had put down his fishing rod, and helped bring happiness to someone else.

Wouldn’t this be a better world if we all helped each other land “the big one”?

Copyright ©Eric Lanier.  The right to download and store output of the materials from this website is granted for your personal use only, and materials may not be produced in any edited form. Any other reproduction or editing by any means, mechanical or electronic, without the express written permission of Eric Lanier is strictly prohibited. For additional information, contact Eric Lanier at ericelanier@gmail.com

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Place to Come To

I believe it is important for people to know that they have a place to come to.  When all else fails, they have a place to go, where people know them and love them unconditionally.  I found this letter that I wrote to my daughter just before she went to college.
Dear Erin,

So, you are going off to college.  It wasn’t so long ago that you were riding the school bus for the first time.  You looked small and grown up all at once.  Seems like yesterday that we were sitting at the table working on your first school project.  It involved cootie-bugs that we put together.  Then there was the sand dune project where we mixed sand and glue and shaped a miniature Jockey’s Ridge equipped with hang gliders. And there must have been several that involved beans; beans with sunlight, beans without sunlight; beans with water, beans without water.  But best of all was the rotten tooth project. Your teacher didn’t like it but I loved it. 

I remember going to your cafeteria at lunchtime and eating lunch with you.  And then, seemingly overnight, it wasn’t cool anymore to eat with Dad.  But don’t worry, I understood.  I remembered how it was. 

Now here you are, accepted to East Carolina; a college girl, almost, and getting ready to leave home.  I am reminded of one of my favorite plays, Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town”.  If you recall, Emily, one of the main characters, dies and comes back to relive one particular day in her life.  Once this day is over, she has to leave earth for good.  Before she leaves, she says good-by in this way:

            “Good-bye world.  Good-bye Grovers Corners…Mama and Papa.  Good-by to clocks ticking and mama’s sunflowers.  And food and coffee.  And new ironed dresses and hot baths and sleeping and waking up.  Oh, earth, you’re too wonderful for anybody to realize you.  Do human beings ever realize life while they live it- every, every minute?”

Emily was going to miss the small things that, when added all together, gave life and living its flavor and character.  And in turn, it’s the small things we miss when someone grows up and goes their own way in life.

When you are away at college, we want you to know that we will be missing all those small things that gave our home the flavor of you.  When we say good-by to you, we will be saying good-bye to 17 years of laughter and tears, hair bows and brushes, and fruity smelling bath soap; clothes on the floor of your room and carpet stains; knees on the dinner table; stuffed animals and baby dolls, swing sets and swimming lessons; instant messenger and telephone calls; and good-night kisses.

Each summer we will be saying hello to you, a young woman, who is a little more independent and knowledgeable than when we last saw you.  In our hearts, we will carry those small, ordinary facts of your time with us as a child.  And so, no matter how independent, no matter how smart you become, you will always be our child.

Once, about 15 years ago, I worked late at the office.  When I got off work it was about 8:00 p.m. and dark outside.  As I drove up the street to our house, I saw, silhouetted in the window your little head, watching me as I drove up.  I cannot tell you how that lifted my spirits, to know that I was missed and loved.   

And so, if you ever feel lonely at school or feel that there is no one who cares, know that there is a family here that misses you, who love you and that we wait at the window for you to return.

Love,

Dad

(Erin went on to graduate with a Bachelor's and Master's Degree).

Copyright ©Eric Lanier.  The right to download and store output of the materials from this website is granted for your personal use only, and materials may not be produced in any edited form. Any other reproduction or editing by any means, mechanical or electronic, without the express written permission of Eric Lanier is strictly prohibited. For additional information, contact Eric Lanier at ericelanier@gmail.com

Monday, February 4, 2013

The Rain is Like Stars

For weeks, my five year old son, Jeremy and I planned our fishing trip to Lake Keowee, South Carolina.  I purchased him his first rod and reel and we talked about the fish we might catch there.  I was excited and looking forward to taking Jeremy on his first fishing trip.

The weather had other plans.  When we arrived the clouds were thick and gray and rain was falling.  I knew that our weekend of fishing was probably ruined.  I felt disappointed and angry.

We walked out onto the pier.  Jeremy was looking down at the water.  I thought he looked dejected.

“Look, Daddy,” he said.

“What is it?”  I asked.

“The rain.”

“What about it?”  

“The rain is like stars,” he said.

“Like stars?”

“Yeah.  See it when it hits the water?”

And sure enough the raindrops, as they fell into the water, did look like stars.

I put my arm around him and all of the disappointment and anger I was feeling melted away.  And we stood on the pier and watched the rain turn into stars on the surface of the lake.

Peace and contentment and wonder can be found even in the rain.

Copyright ©2013 by Eric Lanier.  The right to download and store output of the materials from this website is granted for your personal use only, and materials may not be produced in any edited form. Any other reproduction or editing by any means, mechanical or electronic, without the express written permission of Eric Lanier is strictly prohibited. For additional information, contact Eric Lanier at ericelanier@gmail.com