By Rev. Jim Innes
Recently, while playing pool with a group of regulars, I was off the mark, missing more shots than usual. The balls refused to drop, and most always bounced sloppily above the pocket. Every attempt rousing the review, 'close but no cigar.'
Mercifully, this particular squad of old-timers came mainly for the camaraderie. And the absence of pressure, replaced by good-hearted banter, was a gracious gift. During one game, a fellow gets positioned to take a shot, looks down the length of his cue, and unexpectedly steps back. He removes his glasses and says, "I know there is a pocket down there somewhere."
One of the great things about the old boys I play pool with is that they are all equally capable of having a bad night. Even occasionally embarrassing. I'm surmising this lets me know I'm' getting to an age where learning to laugh at yourself is more important than getting it right.
Giving myself the space to fumble and mumble, I realize that 'life is too short to be serious all the time.' I don't know how often I have cursed my fault (out loud even), only to realize folks were looking at me as though I'd already gone off my rocker.
Last week, a young shop attendant heard me scolding myself (I won't say why). You can well imagine he stepped quickly in the opposite direction. Truth is, and we all know it, the only thing more awkward than getting caught talking out loud is hearing others do it.
Most others have done more foolish things than we have. And they survived to tell about it. Learning that we are all half a step ahead of lunacy and far behind perfection. To use another cliché (which I refuse to be embarrassed by), it was once said, "don't take yourself so seriously. Nobody else does."
I will never forget an incident involving a kind matriarch in my St. Thomas parish. She was going on into her 90s and noticeably struggling to get around. Yet, as always, she came up to the communion rail. This time, however, with the assistance of her equally good-natured son (the apple doesn't fall far from the tree). As wobbly as she was becoming (and unable to kneel), you could not but admire her grit. When I placed the bread in her upturned palm, she began to tilt forward a bit. Looking at me, she quickly ribbed, "it's just a little heavy."
As I see it, with any luck, we may come to appreciate that life must be lived with a light heart. Shakespeare quipped, "a light heart is a long life." I guess he had it right. He lived about a decade and a half longer than the average person of his day.
I will also never forget a particular funeral director whose sense of humor was quite disarming.
I was brand new in the ministry and officiating my first funeral. During the procession to the graveside, he was telling me a story that involved a clergyman who, halfway through the funeral rite, slipped on the fake plastic grass surrounding the plot. Giggles began to build as he landed flat on his backside beside the coffin. The deceased's brother came with a hand-up and added, "don't try to empathize quite yet, me son."
Rev. Jim Innes is the rector of the Regional Ministry of South Huron.