Saturday, July 2, 2011

"How Come Rocks Can't Talk?" by E. Charles Smith

So there I was. Another busy morning prompted me to rush out the side door with my computer satchel slung across one shoulder, book bag across the other, lunch bag in one hand, keys in the other, and a fruit bar dangling between my teeth. It was 6:10 a.m. and I was already stressed out. As usual, I performed my balance and juggling act as I strode toward the Jeep to head off to the construction site, some fifty-two miles away. Given the horrid state of Metro Detroit traffic during morning rush hour, I can tell you I was already going to be late.
As I continued my tense pace down the driveway, I glanced over and noticed a rock sitting in the middle of our walkway leading up to the front porch. There’s nothing strange about finding a rock on the sidewalk. We do have children, after all. Normally, I wouldn’t have worried about it, but something compelled me to detour my stride and pick up this particular rock. Frustrated at what I was doing, I dropped all my stuff right there in the driveway and cut across the yard to pick up this stupid rock. The fruit bar, dangling haplessly, fell from my lips and bounced off my work-boot into the grass.
“Great! I really wanted that, too,” I spat, clearly peeved.
I scooped up the strawberry bar as I walked, never breaking stride. Stopping not more than two inches from the strangely smooth and rounded pink stone, I studied it for a moment. Zeek, my four-year old, probably found it last night and left it here. That kid always drops whatever he’s holding wherever he happens to be standing last. I picked up the blasted rock with my free hand, and sarcastically started speaking to it as I made my way toward the flower bed.
“So, thanks to you, pinky, I have officially gone from kinda late, to definitely late. And…I dropped my breakfast here, because you just had to be picked up, didn’t you?”
“Yeah, I saw that. Shame too. I know how much you like strawberry fruit bars. So, you gonna eat the rest of that, or can I have it?” the stone replied.
In utter shock, I dropped that thing like a hot potato, and scurried back three steps. There was no way in the heavens I had just heard that rock speak to me about my fruit bar. Clearly, I need some vacation time.
“Well that wasn’t very nice, E. I’ve been waiting in that spot for you since before the birds were awake. We need to talk. Could you please pick me up? I promise I won’t bite your fingers off”, it said in a muffled voice, as if its mouth were full of grass.
My eyes were so wide I could feel my lids stretching. I looked to my bags, lying in the driveway behind me, for support. I just wanted to make sure I was still on earth, where talking rocks do not exist. Yep, they were still on the concrete, right where I left them. And I could still see my footprints tracked through the lawn.
“O…kay…Maybe there’s a hallucinogen in the fruit bar and I can sue the grocer for tainted product,” I whispered logically.
“That’ll never hold up in a court of law and you know it,” the rock said. “Look, would you stop acting squirrely and pick me up? I promise, in the name of all that is holy, I will not hurt you.”
“How do I know you’re telling the truth?! Five minutes ago you weren’t able to speak and now you’re over here giving me instructions? What in God’s name? I’m talking to an inanimate object!” I yelled. 
“Look…” it started in a smooth, calming voice. “…I’m not gonna yell, and I don’t want you to yell anymore either, okay? Let’s just be grown-ups about this. I need you to gently lean over, and pick me up. Don’t chuck me over the house, don’t toss me into the street, just hold on to me so that we can have a good man-to-rock discussion, alright? Just hear me out for five minutes, and if it gets too weird, you can toss me when I’m done. Sound like a deal?”
I stood there with my mouth agape, actually considering what I had just been instructed to do by a rock. Before I knew what was going on, I sat myself down in the grass, crossed my legs in front of me, and picked up the palm-sized stone to examine it more closely. Something about it was calming.
“Thank you, E. Now let me…woah, uh…okay…take it easy, I’m really rather delicate underneath this solid exterior.”
First I shook it. Nothing jangled from the inside. Next I twirled the rock three hundred and sixty degrees, backward, forward, and side-to-side, looking for some kind of opening or secret door for batteries. Nothing. I tossed it four feet straight up into the air, and caught it several times, trying to shake any electronics free from its perfectly sealed frame. Zip. Nothing.
“How in the world…?” I stared to say, but was quickly interrupted.
“Nope. Not of this world,” it said. “Above it. Way above it.”
I sat there studying this pink rock, while my mind tried desperately to figure things out. No openings, no lights, no speaker, no battery compartment. What the heck?
“E, I’m here to tell you that you’ve lost your focus, my friend. Long work days and short sleepless nights, barely enough energy to play with the kids and no quality time with your wife, no Bible study time and little time spent practicing piano for Sunday worship. You, my friend, are officially burned out. It’s time to take a break, and preferably starting today.”
I really couldn’t argue with the rock, but I tried to anyway.
“I can’t just not go into work today,” I said. “There are things that need to be done. If I don’t take care of them, then they won’t be done right. The job’s my responsibility, and if we wanna keep food on the table, I need to do my job. And church is always gonna be there and the kids understand why I’m never home.” Stupid rock, dispute those facts!
“Hmm…then I guess you don’t need God to guide you anymore then, do ya?”
My head slumped. My eyes lowered as I was immediately humbled by this unassuming little angel. I felt as if the wind had just been taken out of my sails. I guess I’d been going so hard at reality lately, that I failed to realize the many blessings bestowed upon me daily. That Jeep is on its last good ride, but somehow it continues to get me to and from work each day. As if reading my thoughts, the rock conferred.
“That’s right. What else?” it asked. I looked to its pink surface for moral support.
“Well…we don’t make a lot of money, and most times we struggle to make ends meet. But somehow, we get what we need, just when we need it.”
“Good. What else?” the rock asked, as I held it closer to my face.
“The economy is really bad, and people around us are losing jobs and homes. But somehow, we’re still working and have a good roof over our heads,” I answered, a smile hinting at the corners of my mouth.
“Good job, Mr. Smith! What else ya got?” the rock asked enthusiastically.
“The kids are in excellent health, and each of them is a straight ‘A’ student. And they’re taking to church,” I said excitedly.
“Hallelujah!” the rock spouted. “Come on! You got more. Hit me!”
“My family is the most important thing in my life. And the only reason for working hard is to be able to provide for them – not to gain any type of promotion or recognition from my colleagues.”
“Amen, Mr. Smith. I think you’ve just decided to take a day off.”
“Yeah…a day at the beach with the family would really be nice,” I whispered. As I looked up into the sky, I noticed what a lovely day it was turning into. I glanced down at that pink, palm-sized rock in my left hand and smiled. The Lord works in mysterious ways.
“You know, you’re pretty smart for a dumb rock. So do all rocks talk or are you one-of-a-kind?” I asked my little guardian angel.
“Pssh. Rocks can’t talk because they don’t have mouths! But we sure can listen. That’s what we do all day, every day. We watch and listen to the ramblings and the hustle and bustle of men. And we sigh at you all. So many times, you fail to slow down and savor what’s really important in your lives. And before you know it, your lives are over; spent pursuing the wrong things and ignoring the gifts. Don’t be that guy, E. Remember to cherish the gifts, and every once in awhile…be the rock. Stand still and listen. You might be surprised at what you hear and learn.”
I couldn’t help but smile at that little rock. Setting it gently on the front porch and marveling at this weird and miraculous experience, I turned to head toward my bags still lying on the concrete driveway.
“Uhh…about that fruit bar, E.,” I heard over my left shoulder.
Four hours later, I found myself relaxing in a fold-out chair on the beach, holding my wife’s hand as we laughed and watched our children play in the waters of Lake Eerie. Zeek sprinted out of the water and up to the blanket-covered ice cooler sitting on my right side. I watched as he noticed the pink rock sunbathing atop the cooler.
“Wow, cool Daddy!” he exclaimed. “Where’d you find that rock?”
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