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CollectionsPosted Monday, November 29, 2010, at 9:33 AM
It's become one of those humorous stories that just keep rolling on.
This fall I was asked by a Girl Scout leader to work with her girls on the "God and Me" award. For four consecutive Sunday afternoons I met with this group of spirited young ladies; maybe I was able to teach them but I sure learned a lot in the process!
We had a great time and all three received their award.
The materials from the national office "suggested" that we meet three hours each time.
I was given one hour each week.
The handbook told how the meetings "would" unfold. I discovered each hour had its own unique design.
One of the group projects was to have been a collage of sorts. We were to collect as many center rolls of toilet paper as possible. Then, at the final meeting we were to use them in creating ... a masterpiece (of some sort).
The masterpiece never happened. Indeed, the collage never materialized because of our rushed time. But we did collect center rolls of toilet paper.
We literally collected hundreds of them! As a bachelor I had no idea how many rolls were used by a family in a week. Certainly these people were going door to door asking their neighbors to donate their discarded rolls.
And, in all honesty, I asked people in my church to help me in keeping up with the girls. Several agreed to bring me their finished centerpieces and to place them in my box at the church. My mailbox is in a public hallway and they simply left them in my compartment.
But then they started disappearing ...
I would place three or four of them in my mailbox so that I knew where they were located. An hour later, I would go to collect them and they'd be gone. I would watch as friends placed into my mailbox their donations from home. By the afternoon those rolls would be gone.
What was going on here, I questioned to myself. My mind came up with all kinds of devious responses. One of the girls must be coming by and stealing them. One of the mothers must be dropping by during school hours and placing them in her daughter's sack. Somebody in the congregation wants me to lose in this contest. Or somebody else believes I'm being dishonored and so to protect my feelings is taking them before I find them.
To this day I have no idea what happened to all those center rolls. Yet, after several days this became one of those humorous symbols about life.
We get into all sorts of contests with others, even without realizing it. We come up with what we believe to be the best plans for making things turn out our way. And then .. the universe will present "variations" we didn't see coming. We may have all the help from others we could possible foresee needing and that doesn't change the outcome one bit. Beyond our understanding things turn out differently than planned. We're left to wonder why, who caused this unexpected outcome, who cheated us or schemed against us, or even who thought they were helping without knowing the "whole story."
Life is spiritually filled with such discarded centerpieces from one change after another. We often times want to hold on to the last symbol of the path we traveled or even the people we knew. We want to collect such symbols. We place a lot of value in our collections.
But in the end even these "disappear."
We have to continue on. Hopefully we'll come to laugh at our earlier notions that something or someone was out to keep us from the greatest good. Eventually we come to see that the best blessings are just ahead, further down this path, even after additional changes still to come.
Perhaps the greatest meaning in our life is not from the collections we obtain. Rather, the greatest meaning may be in our ability to roll through the changes.
P.T. Wilson is the senior pastor at Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church, Greencastle, and is also the University Chaplain at DePauw University.