The Needle Detector

Confession Time: I fled my house today in order to avoid a visit from the mother of my former son-in-law. Actually, I wasn’t exactly fleeing. I just didn’t want to be there when she arrived. (Wait–that’s pretty much the same thing, isn’t it?)

Not to waste the time after vacating the house, I headed to one of my favorite haunts, the Midwest Genealogy Center, a top-flight genealogy library that just happens to be about two miles from my house. My current research is not so much tracking down the various ancestors who explain my presence on this earth as to learn the history of my new home and the land on which it stands. Today’s quarry was obituaries for the people who, I’m pretty sure, built the barn that now houses us: Fred and Bessie.

Having done some poking around, I knew death dates for both of these people. With that information in hand and given that they were Independence locals, finding the obituary shouldn’t be tough. I went to Fred’s death date, 27 November 1958, in the Independence Examiner and began scrolling forward through the microfilm. I gave up around 4 December with empty hands. Trying the same thing with Bessie’s death date, I had similarly crummy results.

Eventually, following this same process in theĀ Kansas City Star, I located entries for both of these people, but I couldn’t help but think there might have been a fuller account in the hometown paper. On my way out of the library, I asked one of the expert staff. “We don’t have anything like an index for theĀ Examiner do we?”

It turns out that we do. Punching in the appropriate surname, I received a quick 81 hits. That’s not to say that there were 81 articles since Bessie, for example, appeared in Fred’s obituary as well as her own. Still, by clicking on a link, I could see the date, page, and column on which the item appeared.

So here’s my choice. Spend an hour or more scrolling through a bunch a random pages and discovering the price of grapes at Milgrim’s in 1957, or talk to a librarian for two minutes and get easy and efficient access. You’d think that with all the years of research I’ve put in, I’d know better.

In Proverbs 11:14, we realize that my folly isn’t a new issue:

Without guidance, a people will fall,
but with many counselors there is deliverance.

The same idea is picked up a few chapters later in 15:22.

Plans fail when there is no counsel,
but with many advisers they succeed.

Our culture encourages self reliance and rugged individualism. My maleness and introversion combine to make me even less inclined to seek out help. But with some outside help, my needle is suddenly located in a considerably smaller haystack.

Funny Place to Park

Penny had a conversation with her friend Monica this morning. I can hardly expect to plumb the depths of female-to-female conversation, but I do know that this conversation wound up with Penny inviting Monica to come over.

“But don’t try to drive up our hill,” Penny warned Monica.

“Is it really that bad?” Monica asked. Keep in mind that Monica drives a full-size van. In other words, she has a big box full of nothing sitting over her drive wheels. Our hill seems to be just about ready to vanquish freshly re-tired front-wheel-drives. Monica’s van on its baldies truly had no chance. She made it half way up the hill and then apparently drove sideways, miring herself on the left side of the driveway at some bizarre angle, pretty effectively blocking the road.

We tried dumping kitty litter and ice melt all over the place. We tried pushing with as many as four stout lads. We pushed up and down the hill. Nothing helped. Finally, we managed to back down the hill a bit, enough to get the van parallel to the driveway, clearing the way.

I tried hooking up Moby Dick, my great white whale of a pickup to the van and towing ever so carefully down the hill. We couldn’t get the beast to move out into the driveway and ran the risk of dumping it into a fairly scary ditch. We stopped. Eventually, I decided to let Monica’s husband destroy his own vehicle.

Part of me wanted to be angry with Monica for finding that funny parking spot. Because of her refusal to listen to Penny’s warning, I had to park my car way down the hill and spend over an hour trying vainly to get her out of the pits. Yeah, I wanted to be angry, but I couldn’t really do it.

You see, as stupid as her attempt to drive that big box of nothing up the hill was, I know I’m fairly likely to attempt something even stupider next week. Far too much of our lives are dedicated to ascribing blame for all sorts of stupid things that happen. Wouldn’t it be nice if we managed to instead commit ourselves to get all the stupid things sorted out. I can help you sort out your stupidity and you help me sort out mine.

What a great possibility. Rather than pointing fingers, we join hands and help stamp out stupidity. I think the idea has merit.