Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Sunday, March 22, 2015


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith from a Place of Winter for the Years of Winter… ©

We have a friend who paints the rocks in her driveway. Well, not all the time, but when the utility guys came by and spray-painted some orange lines on the ground to show other utility guys where to dig, or not to dig, some of her driveway rocks got oranged. She didn’t like the look, so she went to the local hardware store and asked for outdoor gray paint. “We have several outdoor grays,” the hardware guy told her. “What are you going to do with it?” “Paint the rocks in my driveway,” she said. Then she realized how that probably sounded. “I know you’ll make fun of me when I leave,” she said. “Oh, I can’t wait that long!” he replied. “Hey, guys, guess what this lady is going to do with this paint!”

That’s the way tool guys are. I know because my father was a tool guy, and so was my Uncle Johnny, for whom I was named, my mother’s youngest brother, who ran his own hardware and lumber business.

I have always liked tools and tool guys, in part because Uncle Johnny, from the time I was ten years old, would have me come down to his store to help with inventory, and take me on lumber-buying excursions. I was never a tool guy myself, though, even though I love hardware stores, because just when I was hitting the tool-learning stage, what Eric Ericson calls “industry vs inferiority,” my father said to me, “You can’t use tools.”

I think what he meant was, “You can’t use MY tools,” because he was blind, and each of his tools needed to be in its exact place for him to find it, and I liked to play with them and leave them around just any old place. I didn’t know then what he meant, though; I only heard what he said, which to me was, “You are unable to use tools. You don’t have the necessary skills.” It certainly seemed to be true, so I never tried to use tools. In fact, I have always tried to avoid using tools, for I did not want to feel like a failure.

So I turned to words. My father did not use them very well, sometimes not at all. It was something I could do better than he could. For a very long time, I did not realize that words are tools, that I was able to use tools very well. It was just a different kind of tool that I was using.

In old age, we face “industry vs inferiority” all over again.

I saw one of those throw-back pictures on Facebook. “How many of you remember typing class?” They showed a classroom full of new-fangled typewriters, the kinds with cords plugged into the wall. Those aren’t old-fashioned! I sat in typing class with a Royal Manual in front of me! Electricity wasn’t even invented! {Well, not for typewriters! Fortunately, though, the ! had been invented!}

Old people can feel very inferior in the face of modern computer technologies. Our teen-age grandson said recently, “I wish I lived in an age when a guy could fix his own stuff.” Well, yes, but that age is over. We’re lucky just to be able to USE our own stuff, yet alone fix it.

We are not inferior, though, because we cannot use the tools of some other generation. Each of us is a tool guy or gal; it’s just that our industriousness is different. [That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. After all, words are my tools! So are exclamation points!]

 John Robert McFarland

The “place of winter” mentioned in the title line is Iron Mountain, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula [The UP], where life is defined by winter even in the summer! [This phrase is explained in the post for March 20, 2014.]

I tweet as yooper1721.

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