“I just wanted to know what it felt like to be someone you look at.” – Ove, from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Last year I was witness to a modern day middle school dance. I use the term dance loosely. It was more like a sweaty, sugar high, hormone fest. I never attended a dance until the Prom my senior year, unless you count square dancing in fourth grade.
However, some things don’t change. We all want to know what it feels like to be the one someone else wants to look at. To be someone that a special someone else wants to be with.
On the other hand he tried to point out her that she shouldn’t give money to the beggars in the street, as they’d only buy schnapps with it. But she kept doing it.
“They can do what they like with the money,” she said.
When Ove protested she just smiled and took his big hands in hers and kissed them, explaining that when a person gives to another person it’s not just the receiver who’s blessed. It’s the giver. – from A Man Called Ove
Earlier this year I gave a writing prompt to some fourth graders. They had been focused that day on the character trait of “caring”, so I told them to pretend I’d given them $100. But, the catch was they had to give it to someone in need or a charity. Some of the students shared what they had written, and one young boy reminded me of Ove, and of myself in days past. He told of giving to the homeless, but also went on to say some of them would not use the money for food like they should. I remember grappling with this same issue years ago. I now believe that if I give money, it’s between them and the Lord what they do with it. I am not to be the judge.
A few other responses touched my heart from those students. Like the girl who said she would give it to her mother so they could move out of her grandma’s house and get their own home.
The past few years I have learned to give anonymously. Though I long to see the joy on a child’s face on Christmas, I am happy knowing I made it possible for someone. And when I don’t know someone well enough to seek them out for a hug in times of grief or crisis, I can ask God to bless the little I can give, and to send comfort along with it.
This is a second installment of Word Pictures – a collection of lovely and descriptive passages.
“Her laughter catches him off guard. As if it’s carbonated and someone has poured it too fast and it’s bubbling over in all directions.” – from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Do you know anyone who laughs like that?
“… at eight o’clock the last of the cool was burning off. The State Farm thermometer out the window over the sink was slowly percolating to the top.” – from Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor
I love the phrase “….slowly percolating to the top.” When I was a kid, I made coffee for my dad using a percolator that went on the stovetop. I loved the smell, but I didn’t drink it until I was way into my thirties – after some of my kids were already coffee drinkers.
“She knew God tore down the old world every evening and built a new one by sun-up.” – from Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
Vilano Beah, FL
“… a hardware store was your practical Uncle Walter, wearing bib overalls and carrying a hammer, asking you in a hearty sausage-and-egg voice to point him in the direction of what needed to be done.” – from The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg
In the first few months after we moved to BIrmingham, I noticed several times a man in overalls shopping in Publix. It was a sight I’d never seen in Jacksonville, and it brought to mind the short time we spent in south Georgia. There it was very common to see men in overalls. Sadly, I connect this memory of the overalled man to the racism that was alive and well. It was the late 80s, but it often felt like the 1960s. But, that’s a story for another day.
“…with cornsilk hair and delphinium eyes…” from Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck.
This is a perfect description of my daughter when she was a little girl. But, now I’d have to say “…with Merlot curls…”
“You pierce my soul” – Captain Wentworth to Anne in Persuasion by Jane Austen.
I wrote some thoughts on death a few weeks ago, and I wanted this to go hand-in-hand with that post.
We all come into existence as a single cell, smaller than a speck of dust. Much smaller. Divide. Multiply. Add and subtract. Matter changes hands, atoms flow in and out, molecules pivot, proteins stitch together, mitochondria send out their oxidative dictates; we begin as microscopic swarm, the lungs the brain the heart. Forty weeks late, six trillion cells get crushed in the vise of our mother’s birth canal and we howl. Then the world starts in on us. -from All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
I love this description of the beginning of life. Job knew all about life and death. Oh to be like Job; to learn how to accept when the Lord gives and the Lord takes away.
And he said: “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, And naked shall I return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job 1:21
We always think there’s enough time to do things with other people. Time to say things to them. And then something happens and then we stand there holding on to words like “if.”
But we are always optimists when it comes to time: we think there will be time to do things with other people. And time to say things to them.
We fear it (death), yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. For the greatest fear of death is always that it will pass us by. And leave us there alone.” – from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
That last quote about fearing that death will take someone else is so true. I know I will die one day, and I don’t want it to be anytime soon. But, I also don’t like the thought of outliving all my loved ones. I have watched my mother lately as she has lost several longtime friends. I guess when you get to be 80 that is bound to happen. But, it still doesn’t make it any easier. In fact, it probably makes you think about death just a little too much.
John (the author’s husband) shrugs his shoulders… “Farmers, we think we control so much, do so much right to make a crop…You control so little. Really. It’s God who decides it all. Not us. It’s all good.” – from One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
Today I’m going to share some lovely sentences – just for your enjoyment.
“The slightly porky man on the other side of the Plexiglas has back-combed hair and arms covered in tattoos…Is that something an adult person in a healthy state of mind would consent to? Going about with his arms looking like a pair of pajamas?” from A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
“She expects fustiness, an elder funk, but the room smells mildly of soap and books and dried seaweed.” from All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
“It is because people are mostly layers of violence and tenderness…” from One Writer’s Beginnings by Eudora Welty
“I mourn for the loss of dreams and the presence of nightmare.” from The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle
“It’s the things we don’t expect that just rip the scab off,” – said Grandpa from Stand Tall by Joan Bauer
“Every lavish home contains people who have seen disease. Every lawn that must be maintained is attached to a marriage that also must be maintained.” from God of the Mundane by Matt Redmond
“…soaking in the alto chant of the visiting bees…” from Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
“He was a mean little runt. The two of them together benasties the mind.” from The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer
“… I could see how quickly I might become a woman gnawing on a chicken leg over the kitchen sink for her dinner,…” from The Year of Pleasures by Elizabeth Berg
“She’s wearing a green cardigan with a neat zigzag pattern and dusty blue mom-jeans…” from Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
“… shriveled like a chickpea with the cold.” from Travels With Charley by John Steinbeck
…nowadays people are all thirty-one and wear too tight trousers and no longer drink normal coffee. From A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Even though Ove was a curmudgeon, I have to say I fully get where he was coming from here. There are a few schools I go in to substitute where all the teachers look like they are 31 and, though they don’t wear too tight trousers, they do have faultless hair and snow white teeth and perfectly polished nails. I don’t know what they drink, but I’m guessing some kind of soy milk concoction. But, that’s okay.
Sometimes being around younger adults makes me feel young. Other days it makes me feel my age. Often I can’t relate when it comes to what many of them value. Like when a young couple expecting their second child feels like they need more than a three bedroom house. Or when the conversation turns to the latest iphone and when they are going to get theirs. Or The Walking Dead. I.Just. Don’t.Get.It.
As I sat writing this it dawned on me that perhaps it isn’t always age that really makes the difference. It’s often money and culture and upbringing that puts the wider gap between me and some younger people I encounter. So, instead of being jealous of their snow white teeth or judging them for their too tight trousers, I should accept these things for what they are. And try to know them for who they are on the inside.
After all, I don’t always drink normal coffee. When I don’t, it’s likely to be because a mocha was calling my name.