From the you-don’t-know-what-you’ve-got-until-it’s-gone file: A vague mood crept over me as I watched this year’s fall classic, the one in which David Ortiz flew in the sky like a bird or a plane with a cape on his back. I slowly sank into schmaltz and became the world’s corniest sap. I was homesick. For Boston, of all places.
How odd. I’m usually Mr. Non-sentimentality – especially with any talk of “home.” After all, I grew up with my suitcase half-packed. I was reared in Minnesota, California, New Jersey, and Connecticut – then it was back to New Jersey for college with a year in England, up to Connecticut again, down to Delaware, up to Massachusetts for my seminary education – thirty miles north of Boston – down to Boston itself for seven years, over to two locations in southern New Hampshire for ten years (sixty miles from Boston, where Bostonian transplants crawl under every rock), and then back to Connecticut for the past seven years. Where, exactly, is home? And why am I homesick for a city where they say “love-ya” with the middle finger? I never felt “at home” when it was home.
Why the schmaltz?
A light bulb blinked on over my head when I did the math: Seminary’s four years, the seven in the city itself, then ten in New Hampshire. Four + seven + ten = 21 years, all in or near Boston: the bulk of my adult life. The city with a bar-room-brawl accent and outrageous drivers was hearth for kith and kin – and I didn’t know it until I cleared the area. It’s a pity. Boston is a great town. About four billion students swarm into its three million universities each fall, transforming a would-be pre-colonial throw-back into a hive of youth and vitality. Mix in those drivers and that endearing accent (designed especially for Gaelic butchers shouting over the noise of their meat cleavers), add in the history (Sam and John Adams are sweet-talking a cop out of a ticket near the Irish Famine Memorial; I can feel it) and its pre-Vatican 2 priests and the theatre and the pubs and the Red Sox and the Patriots and the Celtics and the Bruins and the frosty winters (God’s preference) and restaurants like Durgin Park, founded in 1827 and serving under the motto, “Established Before You Were Born.” Boston really is “the hub,” New England’s informal capital. If it’s happening in New England, it’s happening in Boston.
But here’s the punch line: I didn’t appreciate any of that while I was there. Scratch me and you’ll find a frustrated visionary. We visionaries conjure up pristine futures and, if we’re not careful, contrast them with the exasperating present. We pout. We annoy everyone else and we blind ourselves to this morning’s blessings. I couldn’t see the city’s pleasures and opportunities through the fog of my utopian dreams.
Envisioning wonderful futures is great, but not at the price of enjoying God’s present moment.
So I hereby pledge: On this Thanksgiving, I will praise God for my wife, son, mother, sister, and the other members of my extended family – both in and out-laws. I will praise God for the people of my church and enjoy them – and I promise I’ll see God’s immediate activity even as I long for more of it in the future. I won’t miss the here and now for potentialities and possibilities.
And go Celtics.