Monday, June 4, 2007

A Parable about Misunderstandings

A friend of mine gave me permission to reprint this story. The story illustrates well how critical it is for us to be fearless in our pursuit of truth. It also reminds us not to carelessly react when alarming appearances present themselves.

Back in the early fifties life in North Kildonan was pretty much laid back. In summer us kids hoed the family garden, skinned our knees on dusty gravel roads while biking, and watched the big guys play baseball at the KSA (Kildonan Sports Association) ball field. Oh yes, there was also a two hundred-some odd acre wood lot that had a kind of Narnian appeal to us kids. The Klassens grew watermelon in clearings within the woods and woe any one that would dare steal even one melon.
Not much changed in winter, oh sure, we learned how to hang on car bumpers and slide on our moccasins to the corner store, unless some evil intentioned neighbor threw out the ashes the night before. Ouch! and a pair of wrecked moccasins. After school and on weekends we spent our time at KSA’s outdoor rink. Life was simple.
North Kildonan was a north east suburb of Winnipeg. In the forties and fifties it was virtually a Mennonite reservation. Groceries were bought at Nick Dick’s grocery, your dad worked at either DeFehr Furniture ( Palliser ) or Klassen Iron Works. We didn’t need gas because the street car rail head was a short mile away. And there were two large Mennonite congregations, socially and religiously dividing us all very nicely.
It was hard to get into trouble in this kind of controlled environment, after all Grandma usually lived just down the road, Aunty lived on the next block, and every house had at least one window were the drapes were split just enough that inquisitive eyes could see your every move. Yet somehow kids were blamed for a lot of mischief. Mostly innocent stuff, knock-out-ginger, peering up through gaps in the wooden sidewalks as unsuspecting females would travel the walks spanning the little gullies here and there, and of course the older fellows never failed to move at least one outhouse every Halloween. This last bit of mischief was much talked about the week following the celebration of fall’s arrival. In great detail the victim’s late evening visit to the toilet was told, retold, embellished, and retold again.
It was one cold crisp winter morning that one of the neighborhood lads found his heroic efforts seemingly reduced to naughty mischief, and even infamy. Our young friend was anxious to be first at the rink that Saturday morning, not hard for him; since his home was just a block from KSA’s rink. Smoke was already drifting up from the club house chimney; at least he would be able to put on his skates in the warm shack which served as the club house. It was the fellows at Klassen’s Iron Works; located just across the street that would get the wood stove going in the mornings. It was a good arrangement, much appreciated by the North Kildonan youngsters. Yes, he would be the first to lace up his skates that morning but just before entering the shack he glanced up the street one more time, it was that momentary pause that changed the day; and perhaps much more, for the youngster.
Rushing in the rink’s direction was ‘aunt’ Agatha Klassen. Every youth in North Kildonan adored Aunt Agatha, a soft spoken lady that never forgot your birthday. Every Sunday School student would receive a birthday card from this gentle saintly spinster. The skates were quickly dropped and our youth ran to meet Aunt Agatha who was obviously in great distress. As the boy neared aunt Agatha he heard her crying out, "fire!, fire!" There down the street a few houses past his own, at his Grandma’s home, he saw to his horror large black billowing smoke. Aunt Agatha quickly instructed the lad to rush over to Klassen’s Iron Works and report the fire, she was in a hurry to catch Saturday morning’s downtown streetcar.
It was the right thing to do, report a fire to either DeFehr Furniture or Klassen’s Iron Works, these businesses provided the volunteer firemen. Frantically the lad ran to Klassen’s where he called in the fire alarm, employees quickly called for the fire truck and prepared to roll out the fire hose. Help was on the way, the process had begun. Catching his breath the young fellow raced back to the rink picked up his skates and rushed off for home where he dropped off his skates and continued on to Grandma’s place imagining the worst. Only three houses over, it didn’t take long to get to Grandma’s; smoke ,now more grey, was still rising from the property but there was a sinister silence about the place. Slowly suspicion compounded his fears. Perhaps, a false alarm?
Sure enough, hurriedly rounding the back of Grandma’s house the lad was the first to discover the enormity of his mistake. Cheerily, his two uncles, beside their huge fire heated caldron greeted him and invited him to help them make soap for Grandma. Visibly shaken and already hearing the fire truck coming down the street the young lad turned and fled for home passing the volunteer fire men unrolling the last of the quarter mile of hose.
Well by now you probably suspect that I know too much about this incident to be an innocent observer, I spent that entire day hidden in my room. Only in the evening did I dare talk to mom and dad about the mysterious fire alarm, and that, only because I knew the next morning I would be the person of considerable interest at church. The Klassens were close family friends but not ones to readily give up a good story. I was mortified at my colossal blunder. Really it was our blunder; Aunt Agatha Klassen and I had arrived at conclusions without verifying the facts. We certainly were anxious to do the right thing but we skipped some important steps in trying to achieve the desired goal.

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