Overdue Ode

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When I was twenty-two, I bought a house.  My dad chuckled at the elderly gentleman next door as he watched us move me in.  Daddy said he was trying to decide what kind of trouble I was going to bring to his peaceful neighborhood.

Mr. Campbell was in his sixties when I moved into my little house.  He eyed me warily for some time.  I think what broke the stand-off was when my little kitten disappeared, and I knocked on his door asking if he’d seen Jack.  He hadn’t, but he came out of his house to help me look for him.  Told me about how his daughter loved kittens too.  Then, as reassurance I suppose, he told me he didn’t think he was dead because we would smell him.

From there, we developed an easy, if tentative, relationship with each other.  I’m not sure Mr. Campbell knows how much I admired him.  I regret that I didn’t make sure he did.  When I moved next door, he couldn’t read.  I’ll never forget the pride and sparkle in his eyes when he told me that he’d reached the fourth grade level.

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I looked for a picture of my house, but this is all I have on the computer.  It was in the last year of living next door to Mr. Campbell, and though his health was failing, you can see he still had a small garden close to his persimmon tree.

He had a deadly aim with his shot-gun.  Killed a groundhog, or something in that family, from his back door that was eating his greens.  But what was most important to him was coming next door to let me know that had the shot been too close to my dog, Daisy, who was in her lot, he wouldn’t have taken it.  Then, like a little boy, he asked me to come see his kill and pointed out the green teeth of the collard thief.

Collards. Peppers. Cabbage. Squash. Tomatoes. Eggplant. Green beans. Broccoli. You name it, he grew it.  It took a while for him to offer his bounty to me. My favorite was when he asked if I liked collards.  I said, yes sir! Especially how my grandma cooked them.  He walked over to the collard patch, yanked up the whole plant, and handed it to me.  I’m sure he was amused at my face as I stood there holding the plant, roots dropping dirt at my feet.  He chuckled, told me how to clean them, then said, “You call your grandma to find out how to cook ’em.”

And that’s what I did.  They were good.  Not hers, but good.

Mr. Campbell never came into my house, and I never went into his.  But we looked out for each other.  I’d lived there for about fifteen years when I put a sign for my church in my front yard.  He walked over to make sure it wasn’t a “For Sale” sign.  That’s when he told me.

“I couldn’t ask for a better neighbor, Miss Season.”

I couldn’t either, Mr. Campbell.

Mr. Campbell died not long after Steven and I got married.  It made moving not quite as difficult.

We didn’t have a fence, but I was lucky to have good neighbor.

Lessons from Narnia–Edmund


Chronicles“‘Please–Aslan,’ said Lucy, ‘can anything  be done to save Edmund?’

‘All shall be done,’ said Aslan. ‘But it may be harder than you think.'”

And so it is apparent that Edmund needs saving.  And notice Lewis’ use of the dash in Lucy’s plea, drawing out the intensity of her desire to help her lost brother.  As an English teacher, that dash speaks volumes.  As a Christian, I feel the anguish.  She wants nothing more.

Our dear Edmund not only needs saving from the White Witch, but he needs saving from his own selfishness.  He betrayed his siblings, his brethren, for the promise of pleasure and notoriety and position.  There are inferences we can make about why he desires these things–Peter is the oldest and receives much attention; Edmund never seems to do things quite right; Edmund wants to be grown up and taken seriously and the White Witch offers him this.  But let’s be honest.  When you boil all those things down, Edmund really just wanted to be noticed, pure and simple.  In his humanness he desired attention.

Was it selfish?  Of course.

Are we all like this? Absolutely.

We want to feel important to others.  We want to be valued.

It is a constant struggle to put ourselves aside and do as Paul instructs: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:3-4)

And herein, I am so like Edmund.  How do I put those things aside?  That desire to be valued and important and let others’ needs be ahead of my own?

It is only through God.

“‘Here is your brother,’ he [Aslan] said, ‘and–there is no need to talk to him about what is past.'”

Isn’t that beautiful? God takes it; oh, how so very often I need God to take what is past and help me move on.  It is in what happens next that I learn from Edmund.

“‘You have a traitor there, Aslan,’ said the Witch. Of course everyone present knew that she meant Edmund. But Edmund had got past thinking about himself after all he’d been through and after the talk he’d had that morning. He just went on looking at Aslan. It didn’t seem to matter what the Witch said.”

Edmund keeps his eyes on Aslan and all that he was doesn’t matter.  It doesn’t matter what the Witch tries to stir in him–doubts, grief, shame–Edmund’s eyes are on Aslan.  Later, as he continues to focus on Aslan he realizes that nothing is expected of him–no more apology, no begging, nothing–except to wait and do as he is told by Aslan.

I will fail; it is in my nature.  I will fight my selfishness.

But it will be a much easier fight if I keep my eyes on God.

He has already done all to save me though it was much harder than I can ever imagine.

Quotations from The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis copyright 1950, Collier Books Macmillan Publishing Company, New York.