catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 5, Num 4 :: 2006.02.24 — 2006.03.10



When I consider the hats we wear, I must emphasize the ?s? on hats. Many of us are busy, too busy for anyone?s good. When I feel the pressure mounting, I start housecleaning. Not my house, but my life. I forget about entertainment and relaxation for a while. I don?t get haircuts or new clothes. I prioritize. I?m not sure what metaphorical hat I am wearing at this moment since my main concern is wearing a literal hat when I go in public because of my neglected hair.

I remember a guy I used to work with who could have easily been the inspiration for the clich?, ?a day late and a dollar short.? Cecil?s usual unkempt appearance included standard wrinkled pants, disheveled hair, and a tie that would clash with his shirt. He came into conversations at the wrong time only to say something off the wall or irrelevant. His home was a disaster. It seemed that at least one of his three pre-school kids was sick all the time. His wife was a terrible housekeeper. Cecil was no idiot; he had earned a master?s degree and was a high school teacher. He ended up losing his job over a ?mix-up? that related to sticking his foot in his mouth one too many times.

For obvious reasons, he was an easy person to criticize. However, for some reason I didn?t mind being around Cecil. I even enjoyed his company at times. Perhaps it was comic relief. Perhaps it made me feel more secure to feel that my life was all together very well, at least compared to Cecil?s woeful state of existence. The strange thing about Cecil is that he did not seem to realize how woeful his life really was. Of course he was frustrated when he lost his job, but he found another one?that paid more money. He always seemed to have a bounce in his awkward step. He always greeted me at church with a smile. His mess at home was his and he didn?t seem to mind.

When I first met Cecil, I had just finished my master?s degree and was starting a new career in education. Having graduated from a college and worked in a field that required a certain look, my wardrobe was fully stocked and I was accustomed to wearing pants with perfect creases and ties that complemented my clothes. My hair was short and combed. I had my act together. That was five years ago.

Today I am embarrassed to get up from my desk to teach because my pants look like they have been wadded up in a ball for a few weeks before I put them on this morning. I was late leaving the house so I just put on the first thing I could find in my closet. This morning, I did a quick comb with some gel and ran out the front door. It has been some time since my last hair cut. I have just not had the time lately to deal with petty issues like haircuts and ironing clothes.

My wife has been busy, too. We have spent three of the last five weeks sleeping in a hospital room with our two-month-old boy and four-year-old daughter, Hannah. Hannah has had severe health problems during the last three years. We almost lost her. Thank God, she is doing better after her last surgery. There is much to be done: bills to be paid, meetings to attend, lessons to plan, lessons to teach, places to go, people to spend time with, baths to take, and hairs to comb, books to read, TV to watch. Time is short. I have had to prioritize. Let?s see, people fit in somewhere over hair. Family fits in somewhere over lessons to prepare and teach. Bills need to be paid so family has a place to sleep. I guess the bath one is at this time the lowest one that I can?t mark off the list. And oh yea, God needs to be near the top as well.

Lately, I have found more time for God than usual. It has not been something I have had to make myself do. It?s as if God is near me right now even as I type. Perhaps I am going through one of those ?Footprints? experiences in which God is carrying me. I have prayed more, read more, and generally had God in the forefront of my mind, even while things around me seem to be falling apart. Perhaps when I wore only a couple of hats, I really did not have ?it? all together. I was secure and confident?self-reliant. Now I realize that I am a mess and have acknowledged dependence on God for my needs. God is not a commodity or item on a list to be prioritized. God is the list. God is the life that we live. Perhaps Cecil realized this. That would explain his silly smile all the time.

I wear many hats as teacher, father, husband, writer, friend and neighbor. The literal hat I will where in public until I can have time to tame my mane should remind me that I just need to be me, relax, and do the best I can with the time I have. This lesson is one worth articulating even while next week’s lesson plans beckon my attention.

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