Cumberland Times-News

July 7, 2012

It can happen when you least expect it

Jim Goldsworthy, Columnist
Cumberland Times-News

— It’s Tuesday as I write this, and I did not get up in the best mood this morning. Why, I have no idea, because I was in a relatively good humor when I went to bed last night.

 It may have involved my dreams. What I remember vaguely about them is that the space aliens were coming after us again, and my friends and I were preparing a reception for them.

This is a recurring dream. Why I have it, I also don’t know, but it probably has nothing to do with ObamaCare, Fast and Furious or the Arizona immigration case. (Regardless of your political beliefs, any one or all three of those could cause you to dream about invading space aliens.)

I recently had a dream that reflected directly upon something that happened the preceding day. I no longer remember what it was, but I do remember waking up and thinking, “I know where that came from,” then went right back to sleep — something I’m able to do even after nightmares.

It may be that I woke up in an off-centered mood because I knew that I would have to write a column today and had no clue as to what the subject would be.

This is more common than you might think. Columnists frequently admit to each other that they have no idea what they’re going to write about.

Occasionally, I dip into the fascinating array of e-mails my friends have sent me or rehash old jokes that I hope my readers are either young enough not to have heard, or old enough to have forgotten. (Goldy’s Rule 86: As you grow older, you tend to repeat yourself. Goldy’s Rule 95: As you grow older, you tend to repeat yourself.)

Most times, I resort to what the American Pickers on the HISTORY Channel refer to as “freestyling”: They just drive around to see what they can find.

Today — if you haven’t figured this out by now — I am freestyling.

Tomorrow, which is Wednesday, the newspaper will be closed for the Fourth of July. The section of the paper that includes my column will be printed on Thursday, and I expect to be leaving for Gettysburg that morning.

When I freestyle, I start writing and see where it will take me ... although I’m used to that. Even if I do know what to write about, I frequently have no idea how it will end.

But it’s now Tuesday. I haven’t been to the market lately, so I got up early to go shopping because it’s the last chance I’ll have this week.

I like my market. The people who run the checkout lanes are friendly, and some are decidedly people of faith. The lady who rang me up on Tuesday is one of those, and I always enjoy talking with her.

The Lord had blessed us with another day, she said, and she was pleased with it. I told her that Lord has blessed me every day for many years, and He has.

She looked through the change I gave her and remarked that she recently found an Indian-head nickel (some folks call them Buffalo nickels).

Not many of them left, I said. Now and then, I find a wheat penny, but virtually all of the surviving Indian-head pennies are stashed away someplace.

“Here,” she said, handing me a penny. “Can you tell what the date is?”

I turned it over and saw that it was a wheat penny. What the date was, I admitted, I no longer can tell without a magnifying glass.

Then I asked if was one I’d given her, because I usually check my pennies before tossing them in the loose change bowl so I can keep the older ones.

“No,” she said, “I just would like you to have it.” She went to replace it in the till with a penny of her own, but I said that wouldn’t be necessary and dug into my pocket for a substitute.

The point to today’s freestyling exercise is this: If you keep your eyes, ears and heart open, someone will give you a reason to smile that you might never have seen coming. Even if it’s the simplest of things, it can turn your day around.

As my friend at the cash register would no doubt agree, this is one way in which the Lord blesses us. When that happens, we should be thankful and pass it on to someone else.


My friends Jim and Pat Broome had their annual Not-On-The-Fourth-Of-July Party recently. The date on which it was held was significant, and Jim asked if I would say a few words about that.

The lack of a good opportunity (and middle-aged forgetfulness on Jim’s part and mine) intruded, and I never got to say it. But I told Jim later it wouldn’t go to waste, and it won’t.

Here it is (and if you didn’t know this man, I hope it reminds you of someone you did know):

As you get older, you accumulate things. One of the things I accumulate is people who used to be a part of my life, but are no longer.

I cannot forget them, and while I may not think about them every day, now and then they come back to knock on the door to my heart and say “Hello.”

I cared for them, and they once cared for me. Maybe they still do. My friend (the nun whose profession of final vows I recently attended) has told me she is certain that just as we still pray for them, they also pray for us ... a concept so simple, but so profound, that it stunned me.

Steve Stanislawczyk died a little more than two years ago, but it seems like a lot longer. Maybe that’s because I knew him for so many years. On the other hand, I remember the last time we sat and talked, and that seems like yesterday. We visited for a long time, and for as ill and tired as I could tell he was, neither of us wanted to say good-night.

I haven’t stopped missing him, and I keep his family in my prayers every night (a favor I truly believe he returns). He was a brave man whose heart was a lot taller than his body. As far as I’m concerned, he lived up to every expectation that anybody could have had for him.

Steve would have been 63 today. If what my pastor tells us is true, the party he and all of the others are having would put to shame anything we could do here.

I look forward to joining them ... someday.

Happy birthday, brother. It’s not the same without you around.