Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith & Life for the Years of Winter…

Darrell and I—his wife called him Jim, but she’s the only one who did—had a lot in common, especially a love of baseball. There was a single A baseball team only 30 or so miles away from where we lived. On sunny afternoons, we’d hop in my car and drive over to watch the Lumber Kings. His car was nicer than mine, but he always wanted me to drive. I found out that was because the backstop wasn’t very high and foul balls off a lefthander’s bat arced up and into the parking lot, where a lot of dented cars were parked. No wonder his car was nicer.

That was also because he was a retired medical doctor, so he simply had made more money over the years than I had and could afford a nicer car, which ne naturally did not want dented by foul balls. But he usually paid for our ballpark ice cream, so it evened out.

We did things as couples, too, mostly, as with older folks, going out to eat. There was a riverboat twenty or so miles from us. They served lunch on it. The four of us would go over—in his car for these excursions—and have lunch and enjoy the lazy trip up and down the river. It was like going back in time.

Which suited Darrell fine, because he was quite conservative politically. That was our only real difference, except for Chap Stick.

I can’t recall when I first started carrying a Chap Stick in my pocket and using it whenever I felt the need. In high school, I think. Which meant I had about fifty years of Chap Stick use in my experience when I met Darrell. I got to the place where I tried not to use it in his presence, but sometimes I forgot, or the lip dryness became too much, and I pulled it out and applied it and he went into his gentle rant.

I am aware that I use Chap Stick more than most people. But it’s inexpensive, especially since it’s all I put on my Christmas wish list and so Santa puts some into my stocking. That supply lasts me all year. And why have the discomfort of dry lips when you don’t have to? After all, it’s not harmful.

That’s what I asked Darrel when he would get so upset when I used Chap Stick in front of him. “Is it harmful?” After all, he was a physician. Maybe he knew it was carcinogenic or something. “No,” he said, “but it’s not necessary. It’s just a habit. It’s an addiction. You don’t need it.”

I never did understand why my inexpensive and harmless “addiction” bothered him so much. Did he think Chap Stick was a “gateway drug” to worser epidermal addictions, like hand lotion, or tattoos?

Whatever the reason, it bothered him, and he wasted a lot of energy—both his and mine—on it. I really think that his addiction to objecting to Chap Stick was worse than my addiction to using it.

Darrell always claimed he was objecting to Chap Stick as a physician,  because of his concern for me, but it was really about concern for himself.

It was the “ick” factor, in a very minor way. Seeing someone doing something he thought was icky bothered him. Being socially conservative, he thought it was his duty to change people who were doing icky things, even though my Chap Stick usage was not harmful either to him or to me, and provided employment both to folks in the Chap Stick factory and to Santa Claus. It really was not his circus or his monkeys. It wasn’t even his business. He could have just looked the other way. But the ick factor is just too much for some folks, even if they are nice people.

Anymore, whenever I find myself objecting to anything, and claiming I’m doing it out of pastoral concern—the way Darrell thought he was reacting out of medical concern--I ask myself, “Is this because of the ick factor?” It often is. Body piercings. Tattoos. Quinoa. Cheering for the Cubs. Yes, those are icky, but I am not in charge of those for other people. So I look the other way. I’m better off that way, and so are they.


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