Today, my wife is at an overcrowded swim and tennis club here in Beantown, sitting around all day to watch Max swim in two events. Tomorrow, I get my turn to do the same, except Max will swim three events and I'll probably be timing instead of sitting. But otherwise, it's going to be long day.
There are probably more efficient ways to do the WOAL Championships than crowding hundreds of swimmers, and that many more parents, family members, friends, and volunteers into cramped quarters for two full days. Why they can't do two age groups each (8&under & 9-10, 11-12 and 13-14, and then all the old kids) at the three clubs here in Lima (Sherwood, Westside, and Shawnee CC) is beyond me. You could get the whole thing done in a day, and probably half a day at that.
But, for whatever reason, humans often like, maybe even need, to be inconvenienced in overcrowded quarters with too many people per square foot. Or as I'd like to call it, "An Inconvenient Truth" (ha ha). I say this cause every time I time tell someone older than I am that we'll be at Championships this weekend, they groan, talk about how long and hot they are, express how thankful that they don't have to do it anymore, but always end the conversation talking about how much fun the kids, and they, had. It's like a right-of-passage for middle class parents in this community.
Speaking of Al Gore, could there have been any less excitement around the Live Earth concerts to raise awareness about global warming... which just brings to mind the scene of Madonna screaming out "Change your ways before the ice caps melt", right before she sings "Material Girl", or Kanye West launching into a diatribe about how global warming is destroying the earth right before he does "Golddigger". I mean, Jackson Browne doing a "No Nukes" benefit, or Willie Nelson doing Farm Aid made sense. Both guys write a lot of serious songs, and put time and energy into the causes they believe in, so the concerts they did, or do, just kind of come out of their own conviction. But you kind of lose something when the awareness for the cause is left in the hands of UB40. Can't say as I can remember an environmental message in "Red Red Wine" or "Smoke It".
And I wonder if when Xzhibit came out on stage, he started by saying, "This is X to the Z, Xzhibit, and I'm bout to Pimp Your Climate".
But, I suppose that doing something is better than nothing. It's just maybe all those artists could have done something a little more practical, like committing to using tour buses that run on bio diesel.
But I digress....
Humans like, on occasion to be inconvenienced, especially if they are gathering in some sort of tribal fashion, where people and achievements are celebrated. I remember as a college student, squeezing into a corner booth packed with my friends, talking, congregating, laughing, singing ("Piano Man", most any Steve Miller song, and "Wheel In the Sky" being our favorites), and just generally enjoying one another's company. To give you some idea as to how powerful these experiences can be, last May on the evening before my Clergy Session in Columbus, I gathered with two old college chums - Wayno and Steph - and all anyone had to do was mention those "old days", and smiles burst wide on all faces. Sure there were the tales that come from misspent youth, but the real depth of the experience was in the time spent together and it made no difference if there were twice as many people in that tight, cramped space than I'm sure the fire marshal would have allowed. The point was the celebration of relationship, and the grip that need, and the memories of that need being fulfilled, have on us (which in our case, was underscored that night when we realized that that those days we had together occurred before our waitress was born... nothing like getting old).
As I think about this, I am reminded of my favorite Thanksgiving, ever. It occurred in my last year at Shawnee when Aimee and I lived next door to the church in the since demolished parsonage (which we semi-affectionately nicknamed "The Shack"). I don't know what possessed us that year to invite both our families (27 people in all) to our tiny home for Thanksgiving dinner. We had no business, really, even thinking we could shoehorn all those people into our house. But that day, I remember, was filled with card games, laughter, football, a group of guys washing dishes using an industrial dishwasher my brother-in-law fixed with a matchbook and a shoe (cause secretly, he's MacGuyver), and a lot of people having a great time. The space, or lack there of, and inconvenience, didn't really seem to matter that day. And when we tried to do the same thing at our church in Toledo next Thanksgiving - where we had tons of space and a state of the art everything at our disposal - it wasn't a quarter of meaningful or fun. It was as if it was a bigger deal when we had crawl over ten people to wait in line to use the only bathroom in the house.
All that to say this: This need to gather, reconnect, and celebrate is, I believe, innate to us all. Hence the need for real, authentic, corporate worship where people not only enjoy one another, but complete the circle by also basking in the presence of God's grace and love. Sure, it's a pain getting up early, or taking time out of your schedule on a Saturday night. Sure, Sunday might be the only morning you get to sleep in, and who wants to spoil that by having to force three boys from a Pokemon re-run and into dress clothes. But spiritually, people need this kind of interaction. They need to make the sacrifice of personal space and time, and remember again what it is that makes being human great: the time we get be together and with the Lord. And like everything, the more crowded worship is, in most cases, the more memorable and fun we remember it. That's why I treasure those packed out Candlelight Services at Trinity I went to as a kid, the old Youth Sundays in the sanctuary at Shawnee, and worship in packed Life Center on the third night of CVC. Just to be with so many others, all ready to worship, even though its too hot, or too crowded, or maybe a fire hazard, impacts the soul.
Throw in that the world gets changed in the process through our collective prayer, effort, and giving... and you get a great experience.
So anyhow, I hope to catch you at church this Sunday, wherever you are, crammed into a pew between the guy who sings "How Great Thou Art" too loud and off key and the woman who thinks your kid is the most adorable child, EVER! And may you, over time, build memories and a fondness for them, as you are yoked together by the Spirit of the Living God, who calls us in humility, to mutual serve and enjoy one another....
Remember that on Sunday, while you thank God that you survived those days of misspent youth, so you could enjoy the gift of this moment.
And as for the WOAL Championships... well, I say, leave 'em alone, so we can participate in the fun now, and thank heavens later that they are but a (mostly) pleasant memory, that someday will make us groan and smile.
P.S. Just as I was making this post, the wife called to let me know that Max's 100 Meter Medley Relay just won a silver medal, and ended the phone call with, "I am having a great time out here today!" And she made the phone call using a cell phone of friends of ours from church she's been hanging out with all day. Couldn't have been more appropriate, or timely.