As they pass through the
, Valley of Baca
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.
They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in
This afternoon, I’ll fly off to British Columbia, where, in the next few days, I’m scheduled to do a number of things, including visit some old folks in an independent living facility named Elim Home, a couple dozen or more seniors who want to hear me read a story. That’s the plan.
The word got out. The good folks at Elim Home got the news of their being visited by a writer, who was going to read something he’d written, the man who’d written things so often in their church magazine. “You know him, maybe, eh? He’s from a long ways away—from
Iowa, in the States—and
he’s coming to Elim Home. Ja, sure.”
Lots of Dutch brogues in 'dis place.
One of them phoned the man who arranged my schedule on this visit.
“’Ve was yust now talking,” he told him, “and ‘ve ‘vere ‘vondering whethder Mr. Schaap might yust come a little early ant’ help us learn to write our own stories.”
Some requests simply aren’t to be denied.
It ought to be a kick. I’m sure I’ll live through it and have plenty of laughs along the way.
I’m not sure why, but that polite request makes me smile. Maybe it’s because I just finished another couple of semesters of teaching. Sometimes—not all the time, and I don’t want to overstate—coming into class can be like walking into a wake. Not a student in the room is really interested in Ralph Waldo Emerson. But this
Vancouver class, this
gaggle of seniors, they want more
time, not less, and more attention,
not less. They want real teaching. They want to learn. I know, I know, I sound really whiny.
But the possibility of assuaging my wounded pride is not the only reason the Elim Home request has made my week. The other is what it is those old folks are demanding: they want help writing their stories. Good night, they’re all seniors, and they’re just now getting started thinking seriously about writing their life stories. “How can ‘ve do dat best?” they’ll say, I’m sure. There’s just something so good, so strong, so hearty about a home full of old folks wanting to learn. Whether they can is a good question; that they want to is unmitigated blessing.
It seems the older I get, the more I have to learn to pay attention to those kinds of blessings or I miss them altogether. Honestly, the prospect of visiting a couple dozen retired Dutch immigrants who want to write their life stories—it’s sheer joy to consider. It’s a peppermint in a snoozy sermon. It’s enough to make you smile.
I don’t know that anyone has a clue about the Valley of Baca, although I’d guess that some biblical scholars will be happy to hazard a theory. But then, I’m not sure that the relative glories of that place are all that important to understanding the psalm. What’s at the heart of these verses of Psalm 84 is a tribute to people who pay attention to joy, who let it fill them, who let it carry them over the dark places. These are people of pilgrimage, who take their strength from God, whose very footsteps make the desert bloom. These are people who sing in the rain.
And Thursday I’ll be blest by being among ‘em.