Three things in life have the gift of utter invisibility: the second half of a pair of socks, the car keys when you’re 20 minutes late, and the last box of Christmas tree ornaments.
“Not in the garage … not in the basement … not in the closet … wait, here’s some wrapped newspaper … no, those are old dishes …”
I don’t know about peace on Earth, but I was ready to give last year’s Scott Rochat a piece of my mind. Where were the stupid things?
One more try in the basement. Back straining, I pulled out old boxes of newspaper clippings … old suitcases … an old plastic tub full of …
“Honey?” I called to Heather as I brought my discovery upstairs. “Take a look at this.”
The grungy plastic tub didn’t hold any Christmas ornaments. But it did hold an album of wedding pictures. More specifically, wedding pictures of Heather’s grandparents, in a worn but glorious black and white. Further down were more discoveries: a book of tales from India lavishly illustrated by Heather’s great uncle, old pictures of our ward Missy as a baby, even a picture of Heather and Missy as girls together, hair shining in the light.
We never did find that last box of ornaments. But it no longer mattered. We’d already unwrapped the most amazing present imaginable
It’s odd, really, but the best discoveries are often like that. Seek and ye shall find … but not quite what you were looking for.
Ask Richard James. He was trying to find a way to make naval instruments more stable when he accidentally knocked over one of his springs – and found he’d discovered the Slinky.
Or maybe Percy Spencer, who found a melted chocolate bar in his pants, and realized it had been cooked by the microwaves of a magnetron he’d been working on.
A stove left on too long led to vulcanized rubber. A transistor grabbed by mistake helped create the first pacemaker. And we’ve all heard the story about dirty dishes and penicillin.
On and on the list goes, oddly comforting in its serendipity. It’s a reminder that even our frustrations can come back to help us and that the “right thing” may not be what we think.
Nobody’s perfect – and it turns out that’s pretty wonderful.
Granted, there are mistakes and there are mistakes. I’m pretty sure nobody’s going to give me the Nobel Prize for successfully introducing my chin to a concrete sidewalk, for example. But if we don’t fear mistakes, that’s when real learning can take place.
My brother-in-law Brad, one of life’s truly handy people, once told me and Heather that a lot of home projects were easier than they looked. “You just can’t be afraid to break anything,” he said.
Good words to remember.
Looking back at my own delvings and the more noteworthy discoveries above, there really does seem to be a common thread, a balance that has to be struck. You have to be willing to make the effort, without being so focused on what you should be seeing that you miss what’s there.
If I’d said “Oh, well,” and done something else, I’d have missed a treasure. But I also would have missed it if I hadn’t started to widen my search.
Instead, in a season of the unexpected, we found a welcome surprise. That’s more than worth a few missing beads and bangles. And who knows what new discoveries might lie ahead?
I might even learn about this wonderful thing called “labels.”