Tsunami? Hurricane? Tornado? Pick your own severe weather event meptaphor for the pre and post-Labor Day madness. I went with tidal wave in my latest "In Good Faith" column but I'm open to other possibilities.
September Tidal Wave
The September tidal wave has broken upon us. It used to feel more like a gentle wave; one you’d hop on to ride your boogie board onto the beach of the fall routine. The Post-Labor Day schedule may have been slightly jarring but it was manageable; all part of the rhythm of American life.
At some point, a simple late summer day at the beach morphed into a tsunami of epic, back-to-school proportions. Outside of December I encounter more frazzled people in early September than any other time of year. Kids are antsy with nervous anticipation of the impending academic year – of course they have been since mid-June when they first spied a “Back-to-School Sale” sign at Staples. Parents are mired in to-do lists and guilt about not having used the past few months to get everything done they’d previously put off until summer.
You’d be antsy too if you saw the back-to-school shopping list. Think Santa’s list but with fewer toys and more protractors. Perhaps my boys will actually use the colored pencils we bought as opposed to the unused boxes from last year. And the year before that. Of course we never can find those boxes until after we’ve bought the new ones and promptly lost the receipt. It used to be that you bought a Trapper Keeper, a few No. 2 pencils, a ream of lined paper, and you were ready to go.
This year I went to three stores in search of green index cards. Really? Green index cards? If I hadn’t finally found them at Office Max I was ready to invest in a can of green spray paint.
The days leading up to the start of school feel like a full moon has been permanently affixed to the sky. Children become emotional yo-yos and adults start drowning in everything that needs to be done; like driving around town in search of green index cards. These family stress balls even seem to infect innocent bystanders – seniors, singles, young couples – like a contagious virus. No one is immune.
There must be a better way. There has to be a better way. God isn’t the great Hamster Owner in the Sky who delights in watching us all run on self-built treadmills. We don’t have to buy into the stress or at least we can keep it in perspective. Life won’t end if we don’t find those little round paper reinforcements (with all the technological advances, you’d think these things would have already been rendered obsolete) and no matter how much we prepare our children for school they still have to find their own way and live their own lives. Taking a step back to breathe and reflect is essential.
The church doesn’t always help in this regard. After Labor Day, everything cranks back up in parishes right along with everything else. We have “Homecoming” Sundays and “Welcome Back” Sundays and “Rally” Sundays (which always make me think of NASCAR). All of which are really meant to remind people that those who took the summer off from church) should really get their fannies back into the pews now.
But it’s okay; I just noticed the Halloween displays are up. And God always welcomes us back with open arms; especially in the midst of the annual fall tidal wave.