There aren’t too many exciting things to do in the area I grew up. It’s rather boring, filled with suburbs that are heavy on their own virtue but rather anemic when it comes to exciting ways to fill a weekend. One of the few attractions is a hike on the Metacomet trail up to the former summer home of the Hublein family. The house, a unique tower structure at the mountain summit, is now a museum where you can look down over the entire valley.
The combination of fresh air and few other options made this a hike our family completed often. My parents wanted nothing more than to get us out of the house and hopefully tire us to the point that our bickering might be quieted for the afternoon.
The views from the mountain-top are breathtaking and you feel your smallness in the expanse of the world that unfurls in all directions above and below you. However, completing this same hike on repeat throughout my childhood, bug eaten, sweaty and pestered relentlessly by a younger brother who knew how to initiate the launch sequence of my anger, had all but rubbed the wonder away.
We often await a miracle in life that rolls in with thunderclaps and with pomp and circumstance. In reality, the Lord is at work with sublime subtly all the time, if we can shake away our expectations. Miracles are all around us.
One afternoon, on yet another hike that portended to be like every other with the insects, sweat and annoying sibling, God waited on the mountaintop. Standing on the viewing platform at the top of the museum, which offers a 360˚ look at the valley below, was a man. He was completely blind. And as he stood there, he played the hymn “This Is My Father’s World” on a recorder.
This is my Father's world,
And to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings
The music of the spheres.
This is my Father's world:
I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas--
His hand the wonders wrought.
He couldn’t see, but still he gave praise.
At the time, I was too hung up on the logistics to see the miracle. I wondered how he got to the top of the mountain. I was fascinated that he could play without seeing where his fingers needed to go. I noted the tune as one of my mother’s favorite hymns and I took in the scenery, mostly disinterested, as I had seen it so many times before. And I walked back down the mountain, more or less unchanged.
Over the years, I have recalled the man on the mountaintop. He passed, fleetingly, through my mind at various moments but disappeared as quickly as he came. During one of my petulant phases, where I looked around and found fault with everything, he came and stayed in my heart. I harped on my money-pit house. My tedious job. The kids’ messy rooms. The fact that my bank account is not bottomless.
But in recounting all my grievances, I recalled that the man on the summit was thankful for all the world’s beauty; beauty he could not see. If he could give thanks for that which he never directly experienced, surely I could manage to be grateful for what was in plain sight before me. A roof over our heads. A job that provides our livelihood. Two beautiful blessings sent by God to be my earthly children. That I have even have savings to fret over.
I have so much to give thanks for.
I am disappointed that it took someone giving thanks for what he didn’t have for me to recognize my gratefulness for what I do have. I am disappointed that it took me over twenty years to hear this particular message from God. But now that I’ve heard it, what a gift to return to and endlessly draw upon.
I am blessed. I am grateful. Amen.