COLUMN: Ed Olfert — Dec. 13, 2012

Ed Olfert
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‘Tis the season of Advent on the church calendar. That’s a time of getting ready, of looking to the future through the eyes of hope.

In July, I recall a work day that the LED indicator on the dash of my Peterbilt announced the temperature was 30 C, when a CBC radio host suggested that it was a good day to check out your home heating system.

He provided a furnace repairman who offered a simple checklist to ascertain whether your furnace would be ready to perform in the coming cold season. I, and I suspect most, frowned a little quizzically, and shut it out of my mind.

This past Sunday morning, -30 C, I awoke earlier than usual, not sure why, but it soon came into my consciousness that the furnace was not cycling properly. Perhaps that connects to 30 years ago, living in an old farmhouse with  temperamental heating equipment, always aware of sounds from the basement, were they good sounds or otherwise, perhaps those days are still in my psyche.

At any rate, a little lubrication got things heating before we had dropped more than a few degrees. Later in the day, I reflected again on Advent, how do we prepare, how do we get ready for what is to come.

Holly and I have a friend, “Ike.” Ike has been an important person in our lives for about 15 years. Ike currently resides in a halfway house in another city.

Whenever we get together, whenever we have gotten together in the past 15 years, the conversation is intense. Not that we don’t laugh, we actually laugh a lot.

But Ike counts on us to be open to conversation about the things that are going on in his head, things that he doesn’t have many places to discuss.

Things like politics, and what he sees as depressing trends here in Canada to move to more punitive measures for dealing with offenders like himself. Things like a relationship with a family member that always seems bleak and strained.

Things like job hunting, when a prospective employer needs only to type Ike’s name into Google, and all hope disappears.

Things like the suspicious nature of the place where he is staying, things like a parole officer who puts pressure on Ike to take some positive steps in his life, things like … Well, it goes on and on.

When I point out to Ike that good things have happened in his life when he has taken responsibility and has changed the things that he can, that he has shown the strength to do that in the past, his response is predictable.

“That’s one difference between us,” Ike maintains.  “You’re such an optimist, and I admit that I look at things from a pessimistic perspective.”

I squirm a little at the optimist label. I see myself as a realist. But I also try to look to the future through eyes of hope. I acknowledge that my reality is somewhat different from that of Ike, mostly not of my doing, nor his.

Here are some of the glimpses of the past that I’ve seen, glimpses that point hopefully to the future.

Marin is a daughter of our eldest. She is in Grade 1. Marin has always danced to a beat that she alone hears. A boy appeared in her class with significant developmental issues, at times causing class disruptions such that he has actually been allowed limited time in a classroom. Marin made the decision that this boy would be her friend. She arranges to sit beside him, helps him to focus, spends recesses at his side, and offers many hugs.

Cate is a daughter of our second. At her eighth birthday party in October, we went bowling in Rosthern. After the party, complete with cake and gifts, six children decided they would make the trek to the park, several blocks away, while the adults visited.

Opa has never been seriously considered as an adult, so he was seconded to the journey. Carrying one, holding hands with a few more, he noted that others of the little ones had gotten some distance ahead. One was Antaya, riding her bike merrily down the sidewalk.

As a result, Antaya got to an intersection some distance ahead of opa and his slower charges. Out of nowhere, Cate appeared, stepping firmly in front of the bike, holding Antaya there patiently, then helping opa lift Antaya avec bike gently over the curb.

Jordan is the son of our third. He has far too much piss and vinegar for this oldster to match. He is four. He has a younger sibling, and given the strong sense of determination that both carry, there are often fireworks in that household.

And yet Jordan’s keen mind has taken note that affection is frequently shown in his extended family by gentle kisses on top of the head. In his lifetime “my brother” has received many, many kisses, as Jordan roars by in play.

It will be good. The Christ is coming, will appear to those who look forward through eyes of hope.

Organizations: CBC, Google

Geographic location: Canada, Jordan, Rosthern

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