The Sailboat

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
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When a small leak in the roof took me into the attic, I found my son’s two-foot sailboat leaning on its side. The plastic hull is red. The deck blue. The sails are white. When I bought it 20 years ago, I thought the sailboat could replicate the pleasure of sailing little ships in the fountains of Paris that I had seen as a young man. Little French boys in shorts ran from one side of the fountain to the other. They used long poles to guide their sailboats. Something Old World and postcard charming moved me to buy my son a sailboat, give him a long stick, and drive him to our local park.

The pond at the park was about the size of a basketball court and filled with sticks and mud. As soon as my son launched his boat, it hooked on a rotting maple branch. He shrugged and said, “Let’s go home.”

I carried the boat back to the house, and 20 years later, I found it in the attic. I held it in my hand, felt the small sails, and moments later I was at the park and beside the pond. The water there is clear now, free of sticks and leaves and mud. A wonderful fountain gushes in the center. I leaned over and placed the small boat on the water and used a small stick that I found to push the boat out. A movement of air filled the sails; the boat leaned to the side and began effortlessly to glide.

Life sometimes is a stale, muddy pond with rotting sticks and leaves. It also is a glorious lake filled with clear water and gushing fountains. The secret is what we build to cross it.

We humans are given the gift of intellect to overcome physical obstacles. We are given a soul to overcome challenges to the spirit. When I found that small boat in the attic, I felt a surge of thanksgiving for my three children—at the center of my life for the past 25 years. My inner life sometimes fills with loneliness or rough seas, but then my daughter calls, or my son appears at the door, or my eldest son sends a letter. And I know once again what lashes my life’s sails tightly to the mast.

We have in our hearts a notion of heaven. For me, in part, heaven has a wonderful, wide fountain that looks like Paris, and I am wearing little shorts and guiding my blue and red boat from one side of the water to the next. For me, heaven includes my three children writing me letters and surprising me at the front door.

Each year at Thanksgiving, we celebrate the harvest and the memory that early settlers could survive another winter. The November holiday is a time to give thanks for the intellect to imagine the truth of paradise and for a soul to guide us along the way. Thanksgiving is a time to stand beside our husbands and wives, our children, our mothers and fathers, our aunts and uncles, our neighbors and friends and be grateful for the bounty of what it means to be family: children of a loving, merciful God.