I know it’s hard to say goodbye, but we must. With 25° weather, you just can’t make it. So, we release you. We will see you next year young and full of life. Thanks for the beautiful fall.
Your (not so secret) admirer,
Ah, yes. The ‘goodbyes’ are harder than the ‘hellos’.
My friend’s words ring true as we bid adieu to the most gorgeous Minnesota fall season ever. Some changes, like this one, from a gloriously vibrant kaleidoscope to a barren, frozen landscape, are harder to take because of the even harsher realities that loom in the wings. Ice. Snow. Blizzards. Wind chills.
In the fall of 1993 our family picked up lock, stock, and barrel and moved from our cushy, custom-made sofa-life in the United States of America to a ragtag of ill-fitting, hardened chairs in Akademgorokok, Russia. We left our jobs. Sold our home and cars. Sorted and disposed or stored most of our possessions. We left kindred and kin.
New language. Culture. Religious background. Government. Weather. Infrastructure. Transportation options. Educational options. Rules to learn—written and unwritten— about how the system works and the people interact.
We chaffed and squirmed trying to make many a square peg fit into a round hole.
We changed the known for the unknown in every category of our high stakes Jeopardy game and were well aware that the losses would probably outweigh the wins. At least in the short-term scheme of things.
It was at our summer orientation camp in Colorado just before our departure that the stark realities of foreboding change sank in deep and wide. Part of our orientation consisted in various simulations to allow for emotional encounters of the third kind. The most powerful of these was the balloon game.
The children gathered outside our meeting room on a brilliantly sunny afternoon. Not a cloud in the sky. No ill winds blowing or chilly temperatures or dampening rains. Just clear blue sky. Everyone was silent. Waiting for an unknown something to happen.
At that moment several of our orientation leaders appeared seemingly out of nowhere bearing colorful, huge helium filled balloons on strings. The children’s eyes lit up as the leaders gave each child a brightly colored balloon. The delight radiated from young faces.
Once the balloons were all distributed the leader began to talk to the children about the concepts of change, loss, gain—leavings and cleavings–goodbyes and hellos. It all seemed pretty abstract until the end of the talk when the leader summarized by saying, quite matter of factly, “The ‘goodbyes’ are harder than the ‘hellos’.” He let the words sink in.
Then he gently asked the children, “ Who is willing to let go of their balloon?”
You could have cut the thick air with the proverbial knife. Some said, “No way.” Others began to openly weep. Some hung on tight and looked anxiously at their parents. The minutes seemed like hours.
Finally, one brave, thoughtful child spoke. It was our dear seven year old, Claire Marie, who shocked us all.
“I will let go of my balloon,” she said.
And so she did.
It slowly rose into the air and out of sight. Several more balloons followed.
The lesson became crystal clear. Tears flooded my vision as I held little Claire.
Embrace the pain. The loss. The sadness. The suffering. The holes. These new unseemly friends will come and they are part of the package.
After all, Jesus said in Matthew 16:24-25: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.“
Lord, help me to let go of my balloon.
Opening letter and picture courtesy of Staci Carroll, Minneapolis, MN.
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