By Alyssa Bormes
It was the sort of day that makes the Midwest seem like paradise: warm, sunny, a light breeze, no bugs, no humidity. The water in the lake was clear and warm; I was surrounded by strangers who seemed so familiar to me because of our shared joy of being at the lake.
Many of us were on our floaties, others were swimming and splashing, while quite a few people just lounged in the beautiful shade on the beach turned yard near the cabin. In the air was the glorious smell of the promise of dinner. It was the sort of day to let cares evaporate, to abandon stress, and just be near laughter, joy, and contentment. The nearby splashing kept me cool, and made my floaty sway like a hammock in the wind.
But there was one odd thing, but not so odd as to be alarming. I had my computer with me on the floaty. It was near my feet. At times I thought that it might not have been the best idea to have the computer, but nothing could upset this perfect, sunny day at the lake. I continued to soak up the sun and to relax to the hypnotic waving of the water. There were a couple waves that left me a bit more worried about my computer, but it seemed to be stable. No worries.
And then, with only the smallest plop, the computer fell into the lake. I watched with an odd calm as the silver rectangle sank. I could see it as it sat on the bottom. A few people noticed but did nothing to come to my aid. An awareness came; there are about 30,000 pictures on it, lesson plans, speeches, writings, documents of all sorts. Diving to retrieve it was fairly simple; as was swimming with it to the shore. However, once on the beach, the horror struck me as water leaked from it… it was ruined.
My heart ached. No one seemed to notice the woman with the leaking computer. The day was too extraordinary to pay attention to such a minor detail. The laughter and splashing continued. The people on the beach and in the yard leaned just a bit as I walked by so as to not get wet, but their conversations were not interrupted; their day was not ruined by my tragedy.
Who would help me? There must be someone. Utterly crestfallen, I walked into the cool of the cabin and there he was, the man who had come to my assistance countless times. Not only had he bought this computer for me, he had purchased three others over the years, replacing them as they became obsolete. He had purchased my cameras, sent money to pay for my car repair when I called him crying that rainy night as I sat stranded on the freeway, and he, along with my stepfather, had rescued me that December day when my engine heaved her last and I sat in the one-gas-station town off the nearly deserted highway. My brother John could fix anything and there he was again in my hour of need.
The relief was overwhelming. Wordlessly I approached him with my computer. My eyes and the continuous dripping told the entire story.
In his calm voice that is always a sort of a balm, he said, “I’ll pay for your wedding, but this I cannot fix; nothing can be retrieved and I cannot buy you another computer.”
The alarm rang for Mass. I couldn’t move. The vision of the computer at the bottom of the lake was branded in my mind. My brother’s words sounded in my ears. A heaviness lingered through the morning. During Mass, I felt as if I was on the verge of passing out. The air felt stagnant but it was January in Minnesota and no one else seemed bothered; they were still wearing their coats.
After Mass, I ran into a friend. I asked him if we could quickly walk outside, as I needed the cold air. He noticed that I was not my usual self. We decided on lunch and coffee; perhaps I just needed some food.
The coffee was soothing and I told him of the dream. John has always given me the means by which to use my talents. The camera for photos, the computer for writing and storing my photos, yet even John could not help me if I chose not to use my talents. Everyone at the lake could plainly see my talent, my computer. No one cared at my lack of prudence taking it onto the floaty. And no one cared when my talent, my computer sank to the bottom of the lake. It wasn’t the light under the bushel basket; it was the computer in plain sight. Everyone knew of my talent, but cared nothing of my neglect and eventual loss of my talent. They were just enjoying a beautiful, sunny day at the lake. It was an age-old story and there was nothing unique in talent being squandered; it didn’t deserve the slightest notice.
In the cabin stood my hero, my brother, John. His words were not cutting; there wasn’t even a disappointment in them. Instead it was this calm knowing that he could not save me from myself. His generosity was useless if I chose not to use it. My eyes were pleading with him, silently reminding him of the countless beautiful pictures, the countless articles, the countless unfulfilled some-day-I’m-going-to dreams. His steady green eyes said back to me, you should have shared those when you had the opportunity.
How grateful I am that I met my brother in this dream and not my Maker in reality. John has been a constant benefactor and now has been a warning. I do not wish to meet my Maker with a dripping computer in my hands. I don’t want to explain to Him my imprudence of taking the computer on the floaty, the nonchalance of watching it float to the bottom of the lake, and the presumption upon seeing my brother. Instead, I want to go empty to Him, empty of self. Whatever He has given me, I hope to have given away in order to bring others to Him.
On our second or third or tenth cup of coffee, my friend asked, “What do you think the other part meant?”
“What other part?”
“The part about paying for the wedding?”
I chuckled, “I don’t know, but I am very interested in finding out who the groom is!”
Alyssa Bormes is an educator, author, speaker, and retreat leader. She currently teaches at the Chesterton Academy in Edina, Minnesota, writes for the Catholic Spirit, and the W.I.N.E blog, is the host of a weekly show, “Christian Witnesses in the Church,” on Radio Maria US, and is the author of The Catechism of Hockey. You can find her at alyssabormes.com.
Wow! That is a powerful reflection! Thank you for using your talent and sharing it with us!
Thank you Mary – I’m so glad for the opportunity to share this with you!
Thanks Alyssa! I absolutely love this story—so much so, I read it 3 times! Turns out it is the perfect pairing with a cappuccino and a cozy blanket on a snowy Sunday morning! I am so very grateful that you have chosen not to squander your talents and have blessed WINE with them!
Thank you Kelly!
Alyssa! On such a snowy Gaudete Sunday, I ADORED your article and I felt every single description of the lake, the sounds, the smells, and the WARMTH. Thank you for such a fantastic story and I am very sorry about your computer, but what a great brother you have as well. You have indeed been blessed. Thank you and a blessed remainder of Advent and a glorious Christmas season as well to you and all the women of WINE!