Thursday, January 27, 2011

Matt's Legacy

As I was driving to work on the 24th of January, a song came on the radio. The lyric included, "...who will love me, for me? Not for what I have done or what I will become. Who will love me for me?..."  While some might say the answer is obviously God, I know others who would say, "No one." And there are those who would answer, "Parents", or "Family", or "Friends".  For me, the answer is definitely Christ. But, there was one friend who was a human example to me of the ability to love, in the way Jesus teaches us to love.

Since the following day was the 6th anniversary of Matt Smith's death in this world, my thoughts went to him and to how he lived. His is a legacy of example.

Matt Smith exemplified, to me and to most who came in contact with him, what the love of God sees in us and what we are capable of through that love. He was that rare person who truly exhibited the love of Christ. He made you aware of the way in which God loves each of us, unconditionally. When I met Matt, I met a man who loved the people he met by seeing them through the eyes of Christ. He loved, period. There was no pretense. This is not to say that he was more Christlike than most. Rather,he was a man, who had himself, been transformed by the love of Christ. Matt lived what he believed in a way that most of us do not. He allowed the love of Christ for him, to transform the way he looked at and loved those with whom he came in contact. I am grateful to have had his example. 

We all want to be loved for who we are. Those of us who profess faith in Christ believe that He loves us unconditionally. And while we believe that, it is not often that we see the fruit of that belief in our own lives or the lives of those around us. Too often we allow ourselves to be blinded to that love by our guilt or our expectations. We have trouble loving the way that Jesus does. He loves us. Period. There is no condition placed on His love. There is no expectation. We don't need to be something, or do something. He loves us for us. Or as the song says, "... love me for me, not for what I have done or what I will become.''  Our God loves us because we are His creation. And even though He knows our sin, He loves us. He came here, to the earth He created and lived among His creation, to show us how much He loved the people He created. He gave us the greatest example of how to love one another.

This made me think about the reason why Matt Smith is greatly missed by those who knew him. Matt's legacy was to show us our possibilities in Christ. Matt epitomized acceptance of people, regardless of their deeds or station in life.  We are all sinners saved by grace, Matt no more or less than any of the rest of us. But through his words, deeds and actions we saw the real potential of true Christ - followers to evoke change. Change, first, in themselves, in their families, in their communities and in the world at large. I thank God for Matt and the example he provided. And I pray that the love of God transforms my heart in a similar way. May each of us learn to love one another for no other reason than we are following the example laid out for us by Christ and hopefully by each of us who calls him or herself a follower of Christ. It may seem an impossibility, but we know it's not. We saw Matt do it.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Snow Days

I guess snow days don't have a magical quality when there are no school age kids in the house. And when the snow falls on days when you are already off work, it seems rather anti-climactic. I remember snow days when I was a kid, more in grade school than high school. It was a blast living on a street with a steep hill. Especially because in the late 50s & early 60s there were fewer cars, especially on our street, which had a belgian block road connector at the top which nobody traveled in snowy times.

We used to get cardboard boxes, as large as we could find and sled in them, usually with the box turned on its side.  Sometimes we got really lucky and found a HUGE box which could be cut down to provide "sleds" for more than one kid. Sometimes there was an ancient wooden sled around & we would take turns riding with one or two of our friends.

But the cardboard boxes really stand out in my memory.  In order to make them faster on the snowy hill, we would soap the area that came in contact with the snow. This was accomplished with a bar of bath soap, usually Lux or Palmolive, borrowed from someone's kitchen or bath. I remember a variation of this as we got older that involved using wax candles to waterproof our cardboard, too.

When I say we sledded down the hill, I mean to say we rode our sleds down the middle of the street on which we lived. Growing up in an urban area, there wasn't any nearby park, or unpopulated hillside on which to ride. As I mentioned, there was little traffic, if any, so we just had fun.  Our street was about 2 blocks long, so it was a decently long ride down the hill. And we kids lived throughout the 2 block area, so we could take warm up breaks at anyone's house anywhere along the way. My house was within 6 houses of the top of the street.  

I can remember a lot of times sledding after dark, too.  That always seemed to be the most fun.  So, if we hadn't had a snow day, after school, we start sliding down the hill and trekking back up, until supper time. Then, after supper, out we'd come again, until we got too cold to move, or until someone's Mom decided it was time for everyone to head to their own homes. When we were out there after dark, parents would turn on porch lights so we had some visibility, since the street lights were about 10 houses apart. 

We had special ways of trying to keep warm and dry. One method involved wrapping our feet in newspaper and waxed paper inside our boots. This later evolved to wrapping our feet with saran wrap. I don't think any of us had real snow pants. I remember staying out until my pants just became too snow logged and cold to bear with any comfort. Then you went in for awhile to warm up and hope your Mom didn't see how red your legs were. We would wear double pairs of pants in an effort to stay warm longer and be outside longer. There is also a vague memory of wearing a pair of pants, covering them with plastic cleaner bags, followed by another pair of pants. There was serious effort to remain warm & dry as long as possible.

Every year there was at least one accident, usually involving one of the boys and someone's parked car. I remember the year that one of the Autore boys slid under someone's car and got scraped up pretty badly.  The girls were a little more cautious.

Of course, even the girls got to be daredevils at times. The bottom of our street intersected with Butler St, which was the main thoroughfare through our area of the city. It was the street on which the trolleys ran. There was a time, probably in the early to mid 60s, when all of us got a little more daring in our sledding down 57th Street hill to Butler St. If our parents had known, they probably would've revoked our sledding rights.  Someone, I'm not sure who, discovered that if the light was green at the intersection and you were traveling fast enough, you could make it across Butler St, instead of aborting into the curb at the bottom of the hill. Timing was oh so important!  I remember the time I came down at a pretty good clip and found I had a green light. Wahoo! My first time making across Butler St! Good times!

Wonder when I began to see snow as more of a challenge than a plaything?  Time to renew my attitude of childhood, I think.