Standing in line at the grocery store (24 check-out stands, but only one cashier? Really?), two teenagers in shorts and tank tops were bemoaning the dark, threatening clouds that were billowing outside.
“I can’t believe it’s going to rain today,” one of the young men said as he piled soft drinks, chips, cookies, cold cuts and bread on the check-out stand. “It’s been, like, 98 degrees all week, and now today of all days it’s going to rain?”
“Maybe it’ll blow over by the time we get to the lake and put the boat in,” the other young man said while he slid four bags of ice onto the stand. “That happens all the time up at Bear Lake. You’re wearing jackets in the morning and swimming suits in the afternoon.”
The first young man dug into his pocket for some crumpled currency. “Yeah, maybe,” he said. He glanced over at two teenage girls, who were trying on sun glasses at a kiosk just out of earshot. “Or maybe God just doesn’t want me to see Chelsea in her swimming suit.”
The two young men exchanged knowing grins as they gathered up their groceries. They were moving toward the two young women as an older gentleman stepped into line behind me. His clothes were sturdy and dirty, and his face and hands bore the imprinted weathering of one who has spent long, hard hours working in the sun. All of which seemed to make his broad smile beam brighter.
“Lovely morning, isn’t it?” he asked in a tone that couldn’t have been jollier if he had a white beard, a red suit and a penchant for saying “ho-ho-ho.”
“Yes it is,” I said, “if you like rain.”
“How can you not love rain?” he asked. I was still trying to decide whether or not that was a rhetorical question when he continued: “It’s been so hot the last week or so. My trees and plants really need this moisture. What a blessing!”
So the same summer storm that is giving hormonal angst to one of my fellow line-standers is providing welcome relief to another. One of them thinks God may be using rain as a way of withholding a “blessing” — visually, at least — while the other sees it as a literal outpouring of godly grace.
As I walked back to my car through the misty morning air, it occurred to me that maybe God didn’t have anything to do with this blessing — or this presumed adolescent curse. Sure, God can bring the rain when he wants to bring it — just ask Noah. But most of the time it rains because, well, it rains. Whether it is a curse or a blessing is largely a matter of personal perspective. The same rain that washes the dust off my sidewalk also gets my recently washed car dirty. The same sunshine that warms my soul also burns my lawn and drives my air conditioning bill through the blazing-hot roof.
Friedrich Nietzsche, who is considered to be the father of perspectivism, said, “There are no facts, only interpretations.”
I don’t go quite that far — I believe there are many indisputable facts that are not subject to interpretation. But other elements of life are capricious and whimsical at best, and can be shaped for good or ill by our experiences, values, perspectives and priorities. As composer Irving Berlin once observed, “Life is 10 percent what you make it and 90 percent how you take it.”
Which opens the door to interpretations like this one from comedian George Carlin, who never took anything very seriously: “Some people see the glass half full — others see it half empty. I see a glass that is twice as big as it needs to be.” I’m not exactly sure what that means. But hey, it’s summer.
And, be it blessing or curse, it’s raining.
To read more by Joseph B. Walker, visit josephbwalker.com. Twitter: JoeWalkerSr