Saturday, February 02, 2013

Finding coins on the ground while out for a walk with my grandfather

One of my lasting memories of my maternal grandfather was that he was a walker. Not a Zombie in the parlance of “the Walking Dead” nor was he a goretex clad gimp with walking poles out to “bag a Munro” ... he just liked to walk around his community in a rural Scottish village called Law. He knew most folks by name and was well respected ... stopping to speak to everyone he knew ... from the Sikh shopkeeper who kept some seriously strong pepper for him to the wee wifey across the street who he help with firewood.

I used to love going for a walk with him. I loved it because of all I described above. I felt important, somehow ... I was connected to someone so well known.
I also loved it because of what we’d find.

My grandfather lived at a time when things weren't built to be thrown away. He’d look for blown-down trees and cut them up for firewood. He’d forage for wild fruit for my gran to make jam or for him to make his cider. He’d also look for plants that he could take cuttings from to replant in his own garden - I think that's how he came about his rather extensive rhubarb patch and how I, in turn, have a real soft spot for rhubarb pie.

One thing I used to love when out walking with him was my inexplicable propensity for find small change on the ground. Seriously ... I'd find 50p here and 20p there. Somehow if I missed it, my grandfather would always spot it. I thought he had some sort of sixth-sense for finding money. It was remarkable. That was until I caught my grandfather tossing the coins in front of me.

I still think he had a talent for finding money ... but the majority of the cash he “spotted” he had flung there himself for me to find.

I am currently recovering from a massive disappointment. I went for a job that was a near-perfect fit for my skills and where I am in my career at the moment. I want to develop into a communications role. I see it as a great fit for all I do outwith my job. I no longer feel like an analyst ... I am more of an encourager and want to use my skills to encourage.

While faced with this disappointment, the one saying that keeps going through my head is “what’s for you, won’t go by you” ... it's a very Scottish thing to say ... and it is a saying that is extremely frustrating when you are in a moment of disappointment.

However, I have been thinking on it. I’m old fashioned in many ways ... I believe in God and believe that He has a plan for my life. I don't think everything is mapped out ... the plan is more like a “choose your own adventure” story where the story develops as you make your choices ... but the whole is written down.

Choice is vitally important and I believe in choice. The reason why I believe in choice ... in the freedom to choose ... is that it is in our action that we can understand what is for us.

If we take “what’s for you, won’t go by you” to an extreme ... you could argue that no action on your part will matter ... that you are pre-destined to be or do something and it will happen regardless. I don't believe this.

I believe that in our action we can understand what is for us ... just as I would never have found all that cash on the pavement if I had sat on my backside, back at my grandparents house, and watched the telly. I needed to get out there and look.

What's more, I needed to remain aware and to look with a sense of expectancy. There is no point in looking for something if I don't expect to find it. I understand sometimes we find things we aren't looking for or expect ... but that comes from the act of looking in the first place ... from being aware.

I guess the learning I have taken from this whole period is to keep on trying ... to keep looking ... to remain vigilant and aware of what is around me. I can’t seize an opportunity I am given if I don't see it or recognise it as an opportunity in the first place.

I was beaten by someone more qualified than I am. I can get that. I can choose to get bitter and angry ... complaining to anyone who will listen about the lack of opportunities to learn ... or I can accept it as an actual opportunity to learn in itself and move on ... remaining open to any further opportunities that may be flung my way.

I believe my time will come because of this simple fact: my time is already here. I have a tremendous wife, a great family and a terrific set of friends ... some of which make up my wonderfully caring church community in Airdire. I have a job I enjoy ... working with people who I consider friends (not all of them, mind you, but a good chunk are fab) ... and some seriously great side projects like weareallghosts. I have too much to eat and too much music to listen to. I have my health and a rather extensive collection of Tolkien books. My time is now ... and it shouldn't take a crushing defeat to make me realise this.

The coins are on the ground. I just need to get out there and find them ... and one day I will. Thanks Papa!



Sarah said...

Thomas, you have been given an incredible gift. So beautifuly written and such an encouragement to others. Just know that those coins are the blessings waiting to be given. They are the experiences yet to be found and lived out. I have to believe the the Lord will provide you with exactly what your heart desires. Yes, you are rich already, in all you have, but keep walking as your grandfather taught you. Those coins are waiting. Many blessings, my friend.

Gurdonark said...

I love that story about your grandfather. Grandfathers can be so amazing. My wife and I did not have kids, so I'll miss out on being a grandfather--but there are always kids to mentor in this world, I think.

I'm always a bit wary of seeing too much pattern in things, taking my cue from the Tower of Siloam in the gospel of Luke. I am not sure that the experiences that matter are Providence leading us to this job or that, but Providence leading us to
love our neighbors and care for our families. You are lucky that you have a church you like and a family you love, but you're especially lucky that you realize that you do.

I practice law for a living, and I enjoy doing it and I'm pretty good at it. But once in a while I look up and see that I'm running the career marathon not as a front-runner, but down in the pack in terms of prestige, income, and even especially the amount I help people who cannot afford my help. I have done well in practice,but I know folks who have done really amazingly well (or amazingly poorly). But I realize,over time, that the important thing is not how "big a success" I am, but how I live the person I am.

If I lived in Scotland, I'd be out at a wildlife park:

with my binoculars, my little Kodak thirty zoom camera, and a glad heart! :).

I hope your next interview goes better, but you've got a family and you have friends, and the movie "It's a Wonderful Life" accurately declares that makes you the richest man on earth.

Angus Mathie said...

Well thought through and written. Thank you for what I have learned from your analysis and recovery; much sooner and more profound than mine. It is God's rebuke to me, although, in my own defence, it came at a time of much commitment and some discouragement.
I am pleased about these positive recollections of Papa Finlay. However, I see in you someone very close in character, temperament and attitude to your paternal great-grandfather from Milngavie. The more I learn of him, a founder member of the church plant in Milngavie, the more I thank God for him and long to emulate him. A very humble, unassuming man he touched many in his home town and people still speak of "wee Jimmy Mathie" some 70 years after his death.
Would that we could follow in his footsteps; but you are making very good progress. I need to do the same!

weareallghosts said...

Thank you all for your encouraging comments... Tx


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