Thursday, July 25, 2013

Pondering other people's youth...

So, a few years back, my husband and I scanned a ton of old slides for my parents. We watched as each tray-full revealed painfully young, gangly versions of the people I call Mom and Dad. We saw faraway places (my dad did a stint in the Navy during the Korean War), we saw nattily dressed youngsters who turned out to be elderly aunts and uncles and family friends, and we marveled at how America had gotten a lot more big and full of itself in the past twenty or thirty years. It was a sentimental journey because we knew some of the travelers. It was nostalgic. It was mostly fun and light.

More recently, we scanned a bunch of slides for some of my parents' neighbors. They, too, are family friends, but not quite on the same level of familiarity as many of that first bunch of images we handled years ago. To add heft to the occasion, these slides were being scanned for an upcoming sober family occasion, when family was gathering around a very ill, fading member. These films were full of many strangers, at least to me. Over and over, I popped the slim cardboard squares into position, hit some buttons, and waited while the pictures contained therein were magically transformed into digital images. The act was performed quickly, because the task was somewhat urgent, and yet I found myself staring at the pictures that appeared on my computer screen. Children, dressed in past clothing styles, sporting old-fashioned hair cuts; yards and homes now mostly gone, or changed beyond recognition. People in a small town, riding ponies on the street (my goodness, when was the last time you saw that around these parts?) Men working on and posing with their cars, showing off, hamming it up for the camera. Women in swimsuits and pretty dresses, smiling at the viewfinder.

My husband and I scanned slide after slide, marveling at the likely correct assumption that many of the featured faces had departed this earth, that the children we studied in the pictures were now older than we are. We grew quiet and thoughtful. At one point, he turned to me and said, "What do you want out of life? What do you want to accomplish?"

And I lazily replied, "I don't know." I didn't want to think about it, the impermanence of my time here, the fact that we are all just passing through. Even as a believer, even while I consider myself a citizen of Heaven, I still want my time here on this little blue planet to matter. I don't want to end up a 2-D image so removed from this moment that it seems fictional. What do I want to do? To be? To accomplish?

I still don't know. I should probably say that I want to lead others to our Creator, and I do. Is that enough? Does any of it really matter? We're just blips on a radar, really. Dust. Not to God, but to this world. It's a sobering thought, yet also refreshing in the same way that realizing no one is watching my show was liberating. We're all going to be pictures on a screen someday, and likely not the Big Screen that many in this media-saturated culture are shooting for.

Let's just live, and be kind, and give our best, and bite back the things that maim others. Ours is but a fleeting moment on Earth, after all. A snapshot, if you will.

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