the final straw, you know the one – the one that broke the camel’s back . . . that straw. Now a single straw doesn’t seem all that substantial to me, doesn’t appear all that weighty, but apparently when put together with other straws – its weight becomes . . . well enough to break the camel’s back. (or the donkey’s back, or the horse’s back, or the oxen’s back – why is it always the camel’s back that gets broken? don’t other animals carry straw as well?)
But the point is, the weight of all those individual straws does add up. A two-string bale weighs around fifty pounds unless wet, then as much as seventy pounds. A round bale weighs between one thousand and two thousand pounds. Definitely weighty enough to break the camel’s back . . .
or a human spirit – which would explain how I came to be eating a large dish of frozen yogurt complete with toppings in the Verizon store while listening to the Verizon “music for those on hold”. (they play this music because they value me as a customer and they care about my concerns – so I guess they want me to be entertained while I waste my time waiting to make contact with that ever elusive real person, otherwise known as a customer care representative)
It was a journey of many straws that brought me to this moment. I had been sent to this particular store because the other Verizon store said they could not help me but the store at this location was “cooperate” and could help me. (turns out they couldn’t help me, they couldn’t get a real person on the phone either, which is how I came to be waiting in their store while the music played as I waited for the next available “real person”)
Only a few days earlier my insurance agent was a no-show for a meeting and his phone number turned out to be no longer in service. An unexpected turn of events for sure. I believe it was that same day I received the news that my neighbor’s house had sold. We have been friends and neighbors for twenty plus years, so this was a pretty big straw, as straws go.
In the not too distant past one of my high schools had closed, the other had become a middle school. A bible study group I was part of had disbanded and a local college where I was taking some classes – merged, moved and changed its name. My grocery store closed and my bank went tellerless. My favorite skin care products simply disappeared, they don’t exist anymore. We were outsourced at work, which came with a pay cut. And my favorite bookstore is closing!
Lots of straws – little straws, bigger straws – accumulating over time. I hardly notice the toll they take, until one day I do. And that day was the day in the Verizon store. Faced with the prospect of spending an unknown, but predictably long period of time listening to the music while waiting for an agent to pick up, I informed the nice person assisting me that I was going three stores down to my favorite frozen yogurt place to reward myself for taking care of this business and I would be right back to continue waiting with my sweet treat of frozen yogurt in hand. (which I felt I totally deserved at this point)
So you can imagine how I felt when I was told, oh this is their last week. They are closing in four days! No! not my frozen yogurt place AND my bookstore! This is too much. Am I going to have to do everything online? (well, frozen yogurt doesn’t really work online, now does it?) But there’s nothing like browsing in a bookstore, paging through book after book, discovering all those titles you didn’t even know you wanted to read. You just can’t do that online, it’s not the same.
“give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18) These words echoed in my mind as I ate my frozen yogurt and waited for the music to stop. “at least I got one last frozen yogurt,” I told myself. I would not have even known the store was closing if I hadn’t been forced by circumstances beyond my control to visit this particular Verizon store on this particular day.
What else? what other straws could I give thanks for so that they wouldn’t break my back (or my spirit) with their cumulative weight? I thought about the illustrator for my children’s book who had changed her mind after I had waited on drawings which never came, for several months. I had just found someone new, perfect for the task, I can be thankful that the delay allowed me to find this person, the right fit for this particular book.
I am thankful God continues to provide me work in new and different schools, even though I miss the old ones. I discovered my giving thanks to God in everything, really takes the weight out of all those straws accumulating in my life. Oh, they are still there, all those straws, forming into bales. BUT – didn’t the Hebrew slaves make bricks out of straw? and bricks are good building blocks for roads or buildings . . . could my burdens be turned into bricks? into something useful? into blessings? giving thanks seems to be the miracle that turns burdens into blessings . . . straw into brick . . . transformed before my very eyes . . . my burdens grow wings and become weightless . . .
“Let them give thanks to the Lord for His unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for men.” (Psalm 107:8)
“I will sacrifice a thank offering to You and call on the name of the Lord.” (Psalm 116:17)
“Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” (Psalm 100:4)
thankfully and sincerely, Grace Day