Jul 2, 2020

Canoes, Kayaks, and Smelly Feet-REISSUED


Strange title, isn’t it? And yet, you are reading this; aren’t you…perhaps intrigued by the title…let me explain…

I grew up on the frozen pond across from my childhood home. And it set a course that would become a love and a passion for hockey that I enjoy no matter whether I am playing or watching; inside or out. I still get shivers as I walk into an indoor arena and catch a whiff of the ice, but there still is nothing like the feel of skating on a pond or outdoor rink.

In the summer months when the ice was melted (is your glass half empty or half full?) I would spend time on the pond in a canoe. My dad thought that it would be a good way for us children to learn to work together while learning water safety.

To further our skills, my brother Joe and I took a canoe safety class at the local YMCA in which we learned how to roll a canoe upright if we ever tipped it over and fell out.  We also learned how to sink a canoe to the bottom of the pool thus producing a frustrated instructor; but that story is for another time…

During all of these trips on the pond, my brother Joe and I learned how to paddle together. Whether the waters were rough or smooth, we knew how to navigate in almost perfect harmony and synchronization. Stroke for stroke we would have made the greatest Olympian rowing team look like mere amateurs.

Following our classes and multiple trips around the pond, several brothers and I my dad went to a trip to BWCA in Northern Minnesota where, together, Joe and faced the roughest waters on Burntside Lake with ease and great rapport. Together we could take on the best canoeists in the world. Or at least we thought we could.

My wife Cathy, on the other hand, had learned her canoeing experience while paddling with her father. They too had taking many trips together, including trip to the very same Burntside Lake on their way into the BWCA. They too had logged many miles together.

So when Cathy and I decided to take a canoe excursion together on the lake at the cabin, it only made sense that we too would be harmonious in our joint adventure. Instead, we were perplexed to discover that we really didn’t do well paddling together in the same canoe. 

We discovered that her idea of paddling was different than my definition of paddling. My definition meant that BOTH persons in the canoe paddled stroke for stroke. 

Her definition meant that when the waters got too rough or she was tired or simply wanted to look at the wildlife on the lake, she could STOP paddling and her dad would do ALL of the paddling; including the steering.

Needless to say, we really stunk at canoeing together and really didn’t enjoy canoeing together. Simply put; she was not my brother Joe and I wasn’t her dad.

In fact we had some trips when we weren’t sure that we should even stay together. 

OK, maybe that was a bit over dramatized. Or was it?

Eventually, harmony was restored when a family member purchased a couple of kayaks for the family cabin. From the first trip that we took around the lake (each in our own kayak), we experienced the joy that each of us had had while paddling with our old canoeing partners.

Together we had come to a solution, a compromise in which we both could go at our own pace and yet Cathy and I could still go around the lake at the same time; usually side by side. If one got ahead, it was no big deal to simply wait until the other caught up.

Together we have had many memories from trips around the lake, sometimes two times a day as we spent time at the cabin. Together we have had many trips that resulted in us becoming closer even though we were in different water vehicles. 

Ok, Tommy O, I get the “canoe” and the “kayak”, but what is the “smelly feet”? 

Well, as I thought of the obstacles that we faced while trying canoe together, I thought of how many times we let our differences keep us from going the same direction or left us feeling as though we weren’t a part of the same event. 

Even though we were husband and wife and friends who were joined together, we felt as though we weren’t connected. But we were in spite of what our emotions were telling us. And we had to find a way to get along and appreciate what each brought to the relationship; we were called to be together…“What God had joined together…

And the same applies to you the reader; I’m sure that you understand what I mean. Even though you and I don’t get along with every person we come across in our life, that doesn’t negate the fact that they have a place in our lives. 

No, I don’t believe that everyone is going to LIKE everyone else, but still we need to appreciate what the other brings to the table, or should I say body.  

This is true for our neighborhood, places of work, family, churches, and yes, even with our spouse. Each person has a unique place or role to play; kind of like the different parts of the human body.

Have you ever wondered why the nose is located so far away from the smelly feet (as well as the other parts of the body that smell)? Perhaps it is because even though we are a part of the same body, we don’t have to like every other part…nor are we always going to get along.

But, take away the feet or the nose (as well as part in between that smell) and you will discover that you have one messed up body; especially if you take away the orifices that are in between! As difficult as it was for Cathy and I to not paddle at stroke for stroke, to not have a nose, or yes, even the smelly feet, would be even more difficult.

My point? Just as Cathy and I had to learn how to walk in harmony, each of us must learn how to walk in harmony; especially with others who are different from us. In fact true unity takes places not just when we agree, but when we don’t; then what will we do…? 

In this day and age when there is so much hatred and killing I am imploring each of us to appreciate each other and to look for ways to walk (or paddle) together.

1 Corinthians 12:15-26 says: “If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I am not of the body,” is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where would be the smelling? But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased. And if they were all one member, where would the body be? But now indeed there are many members, yet one body. And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary. And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty, but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it, that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another. And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; or if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.”

All Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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