This is Derek. I met him a few years ago at a pumpkin patch. Although I’ve seen his family around these parts my entire life, I guess I never got to know any of them very well. The look on Derek’s face intrigued me. I pulled up a bale of hay and struck up a conversation.
“Hello, young one. I’m Derek. What can I do for you today?”
“You looked lonely. I thought you might like some company.”
“I’ve been in this field for years. Through thunderstorms and blizzards, tornadoes and earthquakes. I watch the pumpkins grow. I see the people rush by. After all these years, a touch of melancholy has set in.”
“But Derek, you’ve seen countless beautiful sunsets from where you stand. Plus, the work you do brings warmth to the people of this land. Things can’t be all that bad, right?”
“Young one, I do not grow melancholy for myself, but for those I see hurry by. Look at that family over there, tell me what you see.”
“Well, there’s a mom and dad with their toddler. I saw them pose for a picture with scarecrow just a moment ago, now they’re hunting for the perfect pumpkin. It’s actually a sweet sight.”
“Ah…but did you see how they rushed? This pumpkin patch is a mere checklist item for them, a chance to capture a picture, not a memory. Did you see their daughter? There was a butterfly on the scarecrow. She was enthralled by its beauty. Perhaps she lives in an apartment in the city and has never seen one before. Her parents didn’t see the butterfly…they hollered at her to look at the camera and then made her move on as soon as the shutter clicked. The picture was more important than the moment, so the moment was missed.”
“Gee, Derek. Surely it isn’t that bad. Look at them enjoying the pumpkins!”
“Watch the little girl. See her staring longingly at that cute little pumpkin with the discolored stripe? She sees the beauty in the imperfection. But dad tugs her away. He’s finding the biggest, most perfect specimen. He’s missing the beauty of the young lady’s perspective.”
“Okay, Derek, now I’m getting a little melancholy, too. I see myself in that situation, and I hesitate to tell you which side of that relationship I’m on.”
“I’ve seen you, too. You’ve been here many times, but this is the first time you’ve noticed me. You’re learning, young one. You’re growing. You’re slowing down. In a good way. There is still hope for you. There is still time.
Listen, young one. Most people walk through life with their head down. They hyper-focus on what they don’t have and neglect what gifts have already been given. A single hardship overshadows a hundred blessings. Young one, take a step back from the moment you’re in. Seek a long view on life. In ten years, the overwhelming hardship you face today will no longer matter. However it resolves, it will be in the distant past. Why worry so much about it today if it will not matter at all tomorrow? What will still matter are the relationships you have and the memories you make. Play more freely. Love more deeply. Rest more frequently. You will discover your days are full of beauty and love. You will learn to truly soak in a sunset. Even your cloudy days and darkest nights will retain a glimmer of hope, love, and beauty.
Some days you will be sad. Some days you will cry. With a longer perspective, you are free to fully feel, knowing it is simply for a time or a season. The sadness and tears will pass, and the sunshine will return.”
“But Derek, when we love deeply, we hurt deeply, too.”
“It’s worth it young one. Every time. It’s worth it.”
I walked away from Derek deeply pondering his words.. As I walked my boys over to the pumpkin patch, we meandered a bit. For the first time, I noticed the family of red-headed woodpeckers nesting in a telephone pole. The setting sun broke through the grove of trees that were now between Derek and me. After a brief pause, I picked up my pumpkin…slightly lopsided with a discolored streak right up the front. Like life, it was imperfect but beautiful.