31 December 2009

Toy Helicopters and Teeth

Elijah is nearing his second birthday, and already I think he has more toys than I had my entire childhood.

For some reason, he plays with his helicopter toys the most. So of course, there are now dozens of toy helicopters around for him to play with. I think they reproduce in the toy box at night.

While I firmly believe that one should be able to see the structure holding them aloft, and therefore cannot intellectually accept the fact that my son is showing preference to helicopters over fixed wing aircraft, I will never tell my child that he cannot play with a toy. As long as it's his. As for professional career options, I've still got some time to convince him of his folly. (By the way, all helicopters have extensive connection systems to ensure that the rotors do, in fact, stay connected to the airframe. Most of those familiar with such systems commonly call it "The Jesus Nut". Because if that nut comes loose, that's the first name on everybody's lips. I'm digressing badly here, just thought I would mention that tidbit.)

Eli plays with his toy helicopters all the time. He carries them around while eating his snack, or watching a movie. He throws them down the steps, then goes down the steps himself to retrieve them and do it again. He chews on them constantly. There are teeth marks on all of his favorite toys. In fact, one toy helicopter of his is so badly mangled that it hardly looks like a helicopter anymore. It looks more like a cicada. We're going to have to throw it away soon.

Such is the tension that we all feel at one point or another: We love something so much that we use it up and need to replace it.

We want to save the object, to treasure it forever, and it's tough to let it get beat up. But with toys especially, if we don't use them, they're no good anyway. I mean, if Eli didn't play with his helicopters, we would probably toss them or give them away.

When our nephew Jeremiah was born, my wife made him a blanket. It was not a large blanket, but perfect for a newborn or to have handy for the car seat. But it somehow became one of Jeremiah's favorite blankets. He slept with it in the cradle, and then the crib. He would carry it around with him. He still keeps it nearby.

Shan and I were over to his house recently, and we saw it. It looked really sad. It's stretched out, worn out, pulled, torn in one corner, and nowhere near it original color. It's more of a dingy greyish-brown now.

Shan told me on the way home how seeing that blanket was sort of a bitter sweet experience for her. On one hand, she gave him the blanket as a keepsake, a token of our love for our new nephew. Those are things to be treasured, to be remembered, to be kept.

On the other hand, Shan knows beyond a shadow of a doubt how much that blanket means to Jeremiah. And that makes it special, to see it used and appreciated and loved. As much as she would want Jeremiah to maybe pass it down to his children, or to keep it as a treasured memory of us after we're gone, it warmed Shan's heart to see it bringing joy to our nephew.

In the Book of Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples a story about a business man who went on a trip out of town. While he was gone, he entrusted some of his property to his servants, to do with as they wished.

The first two servants doubled their investments by using the property given them. The third took what was given to him and buried it, and did not use it.

He was punished severly, and what he did have was, in the end, taken from him.

He tried to save it, and ended up losing it.

I think the point of the parable is this:  Use it or lose it.  When I was growing up, this parable always had a spiritual connotation to it.  We need to find out what our talents are, our God-given abilities, and use them and foster their growth and development in order to be the people God made us to me.

But the emphasis on the spiritual dimension always came at the detriment to the physical dimension.  Of course there is a deep spirituality behind any of Jesus' parables, and this one is no different.

But the men in the story were not given special abilities to develop and improve.  They were given physical objects.

Our physical belongings, cars, houses, lawnmowers, shovels, books, kitchen sinks, toy helicopters and blankets are for us to use and appreciate.

Only if we use them will we gain any value out of them.

My nephew will go on using and loving his blanket until my sister decides it's beyond saving and it goes in the trash.  Or a ziploc baggie like my mom did for the rat's nest that I turned my blanket into.

Eli will go on chewing helicopters until we decide they are unairworthy and beyond repair, and send them to the boneyard.

When we use those things that we love, sometimes we destroy them in the process.  But toy helicopters and blankets are useless otherwise.


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