An easily desensitized “conster-nation”

Published 7:00 am Saturday, December 20, 2014

Chuck was not sure he was up to all of the traditional efforts in preparing for Christmas. It has been a tough year, what with that temporary layoff at the plant and the persistent pneumonia of the twins. Financially, they had squeaked by, but it was not going to be their “best” Christmas and there would be a bit less to go around.
Dutifully, and with his wife’s gentle prodding, Chuck ambled out to the storage shed and removed the many plastic bins, containing the memories of many earlier Christmas, and lugged them to the front of the house. Carefully staging the task set before him, he eyed the myriad tangles of electric lights, the jumble of tinsel strings and incomprehensible objects buried beneath it all. Muttering, Chuck said to himself, “I was so sure I put all of this away in proper order…oh, well”
Back to the shed, Chuck moved the now-unneeded lawn mower, wheelbarrow, and numerous hand tools out of the way. He unearthed the ancient aluminum ladder, which had served so well to put up the Christmas lights in years before. He had meant to replace it for, over the years he had put on more than a few pounds, and it felt quite shaky last year. “Oh, well, is should last one more year,” he thought.
Leaning the ladder up against the eaves, Chuck found the extension cords and enough untangled lights to stretch across the front of the house. Experienced, he quickly tested each string of the big, fat lights and, assured they worked properly, climbed the ladder. In quick order, the lights were strung and adjusted. Pleased with his work, the satisfied homeowner plugged in the lights. “Eureka!” He exclaimed, and then noticed there was one single light, which remained dark.
Gathering the ladder, and a new bulb, he ascended the heights, his mind distracted on the next tasks before him. Fortunately, he was wearing gloves as the failed light broke in his hands, leaving the filament exposed, the fragments falling to the ground below. Unfortunately, Chuck had reached too far away and, startled by the breaking lamp, the shift of his weight caused the ladder to buckle, wind milling him down to the bushes below.
With a loud crunch, Chuck landed in the evergreen bushes, with only a few scratches and a bruised ego. Looking up, he saw the ladder teetering and beginning to fall. With vigor, which echoed his earlier youth, he arose from his spot only moments before the object of his new mistrust joined him. “Whew, that was close. Thank God, I am OK,” he said to himself.
Chuck was, we may believe, protected by a higher power. This event was his sudden and alarming confusion, over falling from a height. This was his dread of disarray, for his lack of control. This was his anxiety, even the terror, of his impending injury, or doom. This was his consternation, and is our dismay when we believe we, or events, are out of control.
We all, inexorably, ascend the ladder of life. Each rung has a new challenge, coupled with a new opportunity. How the ladder is constructed and how we care for it essentially dictates our progress and our safety. Neglecting ourselves, or allowing others to distract us, imperils us, and the whole of which we belong. What if Chuck had been seriously injured…or worse. The impact upon the family would have been great. Perhaps his employer, or his employees, counted on his skills. His volunteering would have come to an end. And, on and on and so forth. For we would be at a loss for loosing Chuck to our midst.
In our Nation, it is far too easy to become desensitized, avoiding the consternation of those around us, or within ourselves. In the negative view, we are a “Conster-nation,” filled with seemingly endless accounts of suffering and dismay, and we are sorely affected by them. However, while the goodness of our people does not get as much ink, it is through our eternal faiths, our boundless hopes and kindnesses, we find our worth.
It is to this end we stand firmly, on the rung of life, and readily rally by knowing our Creator is with us, no matter our fleeting consternation.

By Fr. Jonathan Filkins

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