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OKIE IN EXILE

Summer is over

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During the second week of August, the thought came to my mind: You are not happy; you are in fact becoming depressed; something is the matter. One of my favorite passages of scripture began rolling around in my head, “The Harvest is over, summer is ended, and we are not saved.” 

That’s never a good sign. 

One wouldn’t have far to look for possible causes. We’ve had one of the hottest, driest summers we’ve had in a long, long time. Even if you grew up in southern Oklahoma where summers like this one weren’t all that unusual, this life-destroying heat can get under your skin after a while. 

From another angle, I’ve had minor issues with my health. I discovered that I had a hernia and had the surgery to repair it.  Right on the heels of that, my wife and I got COVID-19. 

And the two events above combined to knock us out of any recreational travel. As much as I love this town, sometimes you just have to run to the literal fleshpots of Kansas City and have a little barbecue. 

Whatever the cause, I was feeling grumpy. I was feeling very ill-used that school was about to start and I’d not been able to “sharpen the saw” over the summer. Visions of disaster during the coming semester were beginning to loom before me. 

Then something happened: The faculty came back. 

We have a professional development day at PSU. It is organized by our Center for Teaching, Learning, and Technology. They provide a framework, and the faculty and staff of the university provide the talks. 

When I arrived at the east end of the first floor of Grubbs Hall where we were to pick up our schedules for the day and saw my fellow teachers and members of university staff, it was like a trickle of electricity began to flow into my body. Somewhere up in my brain, there was the sound of sparks flying and a voice that shouted: It’s alive. 

That was a good sign. The depression fell away. 

But why did I feel better? 

I almost just wrote the sentence: “We human beings have a disease.” And that might be true, but I am not quite prepared to defend it. Let me roll it back and restart: “Those of us who live in the West have a disease.” 

That disease is individuality. 

And the word disease might be too strong. I am still thinking about that, but I thought I would toss it out there to give you the idea of the direction of my thinking. I will calibrate the magnitude in time. 

In any case, we in the United States, Western Europe, and those within our sphere of influence labor under the misunderstanding, “Everybody ought to take care of himself.” And, “What I do is my business.” 

Like all of the very best lies, these are partial truths. They are part of a tightly woven tapestry that when you start pulling the threads out it all comes apart. 

So it would be truer to say, “Everybody ought to take care of himself as much as possible, but we all need help from time to time and we need to take care of each other too.”   

And, “What I do is my business, but it ceases to be my business when it starts affecting others adversely. Indeed, that can even happen when it starts hurting me because there are people who love me and count on me.” 

As a Christian, I would say, “We are all brothers.” Some might not like the gender of that sentence. “We are all family,” might work better. Pick the one of these that pleases you best. Maybe I should just go with, “We are all God’s children.”   

The scientists would say, “We are a social animal.” It’s simpler but very clinical. It lacks poetry. 

Regardless, we need each other. 

There is the common saying, “We are born alone and we die alone.” Well, the first clause of that sentence is just an out and out lie. I don’t care who you are, your mother was there when you were born, and if you didn’t have quite a bit of attention for the first few years of your life, you wouldn’t be here. 

Born alone, my saggy backside. 

The dying alone bit is largely up to you. It can happen. 

But dying alone isn’t being by yourself. When Jean’s mother passed away, the chaplain told us that sometimes people waited until they were physically by themselves to die. It was something they preferred to do in private. This was the way with Jean’s mom. Jean was with her to the wee hours; she seemed stable; so Jean came home. No sooner had she laid down than the phone call came from the hospital. 

Dying alone is dying without anyone who cares about your passing. To get a picture of what that looks like, read the Ghost of Christmas Future section of “A Christmas Carol.”  

So, yeah, this summer was like getting an ice cream cone slapped out of my hand. The summer is over; the harvest is ended; we are not saved. 

But my siblings in arms are back at the university. We are all strapped back into the harness and working at the best job in the whole world: teaching.   

We bring each other energy; we bring each other life. 

It’s going to be alright. 

It is. 

Really. 

 

Bobby Winters, a native of Harden City, Oklahoma, blogs at redneckmath.blogspot.com and okieinexile.blogspot.com. He invites you to “like'' the National Association of Lawn Mowers on Facebook. Search for him by name on YouTube. 

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