On a sultry August morning, I backed out the convertible and headed to the grocery store to pick up some needed bakery items and a platter of watermelon slices. It seemed somehow appropriate, now that the “hottest month of the summer” had arrived, that Janice and I reclaim our Mississippi heritage and enjoy watermelon, just like the old days.
Driving the droptop, I immediately felt the heat in the artificial wind and silently offered a prayer that I could make this short trip before it got “really hot.” I found a great parking spot, near the front door of the superstore, unbuckled my seatbelt and stretched my aging self, in the taxing attempt to get out of the car.
Without warning, there came such a frightening, sudden, thudding sound that I thought for a moment I was surely in one of the contested cities of Ukraine, receiving incoming mortar fire. And I quickly slinked down and sunk back into my leather seats, in search of immediate protection. The thud, thud, thudding of the noise continued and I looked about, like the perplexed and aging senior citizen that I am.
At last, I found it. A few yards from where I had parked my automobile, a dusty, orange-painted specialty vehicle was pound, pound, pounding directly into the concrete curbs in the next row that had, heretofore, separated the expansive parking blacktop from a much smaller sliver of dirt that originally was intended for planted flowers. At the “business end” of some many-levered, metal arm, there was a solid, round, tubular apparatus with a flat end that was powerfully, pneumatically pounding the concrete curb.
In the five or fewer years this store has been open, the designers had intended for the planting and nourishing of flowers in this small strip of dirt that had served, like a “no-man’s-land,” for cultivated beauty. Despite the summer heat that radiated across that asphalt parking lot, beauty flourished, thanks to that curb and the attention of an hourly worker who clearly had been supplying the thirsty roses with sufficient water all summer long.
I marveled, at first, that someone had invented a powerful device whose certain and only function was the destruction of concrete curbs in grocery store parking lots. But then, reality hit me. The store’s marketers had most certainly reasoned that one more parking space was more important than the expensive and difficult to maintain beauty of roses.
“The small space that is saved for beauty is often sacrificed by the thud, thud, thud of capitalistic contrivances.”
Then and there, I knew as surely as the heat on a hot August day that it often happens. In the rapid race for profits and material comforts, the small space that is saved for beauty is often sacrificed by the thud, thud, thud of capitalistic contrivances.
O God of the Genesis Garden, giver of the responsibility and the gift of maintaining your creation, help us all to grow and expand our business, but may we never forget yours. Show us how never to forget about your original intentions for this fragile, created order. May we somehow find a way to keep the curbs that separate ordinary functionality from natural beauty and divine intention. Amen.
Bob Newell has served as a university professor and administrator, a local church pastor and a cross-cultural missionary. He and his wife, Janice, now live in Georgetown, Texas, and he serves churches as transition coach and intentional interim pastor. They were the founders and remain advocates of PORTA, the Albania House in Athens, Greece.
Learning from Alma Woodsey Thomas how to find beauty within, around and through life | Opinion by Phawnda Moore