I’ve been spending time in Ecclesiastes over the past few weeks. In an effort to absorb what God may have for me there, I’ve read it over and over. Each time I come away with something new. This morning a verse in chapter one made me smile…”every thing’s boring, utterly boring–no one can find any meaning in it.” (The Message)
I was taken back to a time, quite possibly the only time I said I was bored. I was staying with my Gramma at the beginning of summer vacation. The first morning I was there, I woke to kitchen noises. The sound of cabinets closing and dishes being stacked one on top of the other. There was just a hint of light beginning to wash through the bedroom windows. It was really early! “Ahhhh,” I thought. “This is going to be a long day.” As I climbed out of bed and made my way down the hall to see what Gramma was doing, a sense of dread came over me. “Hours and hours of nothing to do. No pool, no friends…What a way to start the summer.” Greeting her with a peck on her soft cheek I sighed, “Gram, what are we gonna do today, It’s hardly light out and I’m already bored.”
She stepped back, a look of horror on her face. “Robin! She said exasperated. “Remember this; only the unintelligent get bored!” For some reason, her words made a deep impression on me. Probably more than they should have. To this day, you’ll never hear me say I’m bored. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever said it again!
When I read this verse in Ecclesiastes I jokingly wished I’d known about it back then. After all, it was Solomon who said “Every-thing’s boring, utterly boring”! No one, not even Gramma, could accuse Solomon of being unintelligent!
But as I remembered back on that day and so many others spent with my Gramma, I think she would have pointed me to the last part of that verse…”Every thing’s boring, utterly boring–no one can find meaning in it.” Gramma had a way of finding meaning in the seemingly boring…in the ordinary.
That particular day was sunny and fast becoming hot . First we “took our breakfast on the front porch” , (as she put it). She set up little trays with coffee, a glass of iced water, a bowl of fruit, and white bread toast and butter with a plop of strawberry jelly on the side. Simple but so delicious. We took our time eating. She filled me in on what was going on with all the neighbors. I talked about my upcoming choir tour with the church. After breakfast we refilled her bird-feeders with stale bread and sunflower seeds.
“They’ll be expecting more food when they come back for their mid-morning snack” she explained “I don’t like to let them down”. Then we walked around the yard which was brimming with summer foliage. Over-sized hostas in every color green lined the garden. Behind them there were mulitcolored day lilys with their bright little faces strained towards the sky. I held the hose and she instructed me on what to water and for how long. After giving everything a drink she handed me a broom. “Sweep the walk for me before it gets too hot.” I took the broom and spent the next fifteen minutes or so sweeping pine-needles and birdseed shells from her walk. Somehow the morning chores were less like chores. And I certainly wasn’t bored.
After sweeping I found Gramma in her soft pink bathroom. She was just rinsing the last of the Noxzema off her face. Pushing the cobalt blue jar towards me she instructed, “Wash your face and let’s get ready for the day.” I dug the tips of my fingers into the jar and scooped out some of the cool white cream. “Remember, tiny circular motions all over your face” she said. I leaned in close to the mirror and carefully massaged every inch of my face and neck until only my eyes and lips stared back at me. To this day I love the smell and the feel of Noxzema. And like Gramma, I have morning rituals for getting ready for my day.
When I was dressed and “groomed” , her word not mine, I met her in the living room. She pulled out her tatered Bible and a little devotion book and read to me. Then she opened her slightly gnarled, arthritic but oh so soft hand and I placed mine inside hers and we prayed. She led the prayer and I added something at the end. “Now, we’re really ready to start the day” she smiled. So many years have passed but my mornings are most always started with the ritual of a devotion and or a prayer.
All through those summer days we did simple things. Ordinary things. Took walks around the block. Took trips to the drug store or to Rich’s department store. Made colorful pictures by rubbing crayons over paper with leaves and tiny twigs underneath. Took pictures of a particularly beautiful bird or flower in her yard. At night, fresh from the bathtub, I would settle into the softest bed in the world with one of her hundreds of books that Id chosen from a shelf in her “Junk room” (again, her words not mine). From her bedroom next to mine came the soft glow of Gramma’s reading lamp. Every once in a while she’d say something like; “How’s your book? Mine’s really got me puzzled, you have to read this one next!” We would continue to chat back and forth between chapters until she finally declared the day done. “Okay, Robin. That’s it for me gal, I’ll see you in the morning.” It was at Gramma’s house that I discovered the almost drug like effect of reading myself to sleep. Something I have continued to do almost every night.
I love the memories of days spent with Gramma. She taught me so much. For one, you’ll never hear me say I’m bored! But even more than that, I don’t remember ever again feeling bored. Really. Looking at my life one may think it’s pretty ordinary. Pretty boring. But Gramma gave me the secret, probably without even knowing it. The ordinary tasks in our day can be rituals that bring order, peace, and even depth to our lives. She showed me how to find meaning in the ordinary. If I know Gramma, when she got to heaven I bet she had a thing or two to say to King Solomon about being bored. I can hear her now, ” Sol! Listen to me, you’re much to smart to allow yourself to be bored!!!”