It was hard to reach the first limb. I had to stand on my tippy toes and barely got two fingers over the curve of the branch. But I made it, after jumping, shimming up the trunk and pulling with all my strength. I finally got to the first limb and looked up at the other limbs. They were all arranged like stairs. Looking through the spiral I could see the top.
This climb would not be like the chestnut tree. It had a deep crevice in the trunk and they had to call the fire department to get my foot out of it. Why did I climb it anyway? I had never seen anyone climb the chestnut tree or any tree for that matter. The chestnuts fell by themselves and the limbs, the leaves, and the bark all tasted funny. I ran and hid when my foot fell free, didn’t even say thanks.
Sitting in the maple tree was comfortable. The little sticks tasted good and it had a place to rest your back. Mom said maple syrup came out of it, the leaves were big with veins and the seeds made whirly birds. The maple tree was my biggest challenge so I reached up and before long I was high enough to look in our second story window. No one was looking out and that was a good thing because the fire truck thing was pretty embarrassing. There was no point in staying there or waiting for permission, that I would not get, so climbed up, above and beyond the top of the house. It was wonderful and easy to climb but at the top the branches thinned out and had a lot of bend in them. I looked down from the top and could see the path I would take if I fell. I almost got afraid but decided not to fall. I decided not be afraid and all fear left. Then I looked up and with some sort of strange abandonment for my safety swayed back and forth in the top of the tree. I bent the top of that tree to the limit going back and forth and back and forth. The thought came, “this little stick could break and then you would fall.” I realized that was true so climbed down. I left fear and it did not follow. I didn’t realize the tremendous power our choices have. Five year old kids don’t realize stuff like that.
He was a little Italian man and not much to look at. His wife had moved on and up while the children somehow drifted apart fussing over who would get the bigger property. He wasn’t even in the grave yet and they were already fighting. Brother DeAndre went somewhere in his mind when all this happened. It was painful to say the least. He had built two churches in Italy and two in the United States and pastored them. He worked for his dream and was a wise steward of resources. His children skipped church and many other opportunities to show kindness and follow his path so we will not remember them.
I met Brother DeAndre while building a deck for a nice Italian Attorney who rescued him from the psychiatric ward. They still used shock treatment there. He called to me from across the deck and I moved quickly to be face to face with him. He said, “young man, do you know what God wants from you?” Although I was standing in front of years of acquired wisdom I felt compiled to present an answer. I got out my mental flipchart of possible answers, shut it down and decided to politely say, “no brother DeAndre what does God want from me?” His finger approached my nose along with, “God wants you to obey everything He tells you.” Then Brother DeAndre told me about Noah, the Ark and how obedience meant salvation for the whole family. I knew the story and accepted it as true so went back to work while our Pastor went for an 87 year old walk up the street. Upon returning he summonsed me again, “young man, do you know what God wants from you?” I didn’t get out my flipchart but did think maybe he was losing it after all, so answered politely, “No what does God want from me?” The story was repeated and I thought it was a nice coincidence until it happened again. This time the matching questions spoke to my heart and I realized Brother DeAndre was terribly misunderstood, was in a lot of pain yet somehow remained available to bring a message to me as if from God Himself. The pointed finger asked, “Young man, do you know what God wants from you?” “Obey everything He tells you and don’t forget about Noah.” I left reasoning and let the words sink in. What did God want? He never told me anything so I guess I am ok. God does not talk to me. He talks to others, well they say He does. What does God want? I was truly challenged. My thoughts were interrupted when brother DeAndre said, “promise me one thing, and don’t ever a curse.” I said sure but did not curse anyway so what did that mean? Something inside carried the conversation forward by saying “don’t ever speak and curse the vision of completeness that is inside because of Christ.” I pondered it in my heart.
She was 97. This immigrant to America lived in a bootlegger’s house, out lived all her relatives, and only wanted one thing. I said, “Aunt Lilly, do you have any more dreams that you want to see come to pass?” She smiled and said in her strong Polish accent, “Honey, I want to go see Andrew.” Andrew and Lilly were married after WWI and shortly after Lilly could see herself owning a farm. Everyone said she was crazy but somehow Lilly knew if she could see it, she could have it. Owning and operating a farm requires a lot of work and Lilly could see herself bringing in the hay, milking the cows, planting apple trees, fixing fences, making a pond, digging a well, she did it all because she could see herself working for what she could see.
She told me about coming to America, working in the silk factories till her hands ran bloody, her father dying in the coal mines and being alone in a new Country with a dream of having a farm. One day Lilly and Andrew drove by a little farm house that belonged to a bootlegger. She could see herself living there in spite of Andrews protests because of the condition of the roof. The bootlegger got in trouble and Lilly paid him cash for 400 acres, a barn and the house where we were sitting. She said “Honey, if you want something you got to work for it.” She pointed toward the apple trees and said, “Honey, do you know who planted those apple trees?” “I did” she answered, I planted the trees, I picked the apples and I baked the pie.” “Have another piece of pie honey and honey if you want something you have to work for it.” Lilly is with Andrew now but her life lessons remain, “if you can see it and are willing to work for it, you can have it.”
Nice shorts. Did you get it?
Chaplain Joseph A. Nosak