Posted by: gebs | January 16, 2008

From Two Shirts to None! – A Short Story

It had been raining for over a day when Yashee began his drive towards the central coast.  He was on his way to do some gardening on an investment property he was currently renovating.  The rain made him think about many things.  He contemplated the new decisions which had to be made in the coming year.  One of which was whether or not he should make the longly dreaded leap into the financial realm and ‘secure a future’ for his children. 

Amongst all the decisions Yashee had to make, there was one in particular, which dominated his mind as he drove through the rain drops along the freeway.  Yashee was on his way to mow the grass, which had managed to become above knee height in length.  He was also on his way to lay turf over a fifty metre squared piece of dirt which used to be a semi-inground pool.  The rain made him think about how he would accomplish such a task and stay dry.  Before Yashee became the father of two children, his wife was solely concerned with his needs and wants.  But now the children have focused her heart on them.  His wife’s love is perfect for the nurturing of children, and for that, Yashee gives thanks to God.  Indeed over the past eight years of marriage, Yashee has come to see that his wife’s love is the closest thing he has to grace in this life.  He tells his friends that no other phenomenon on earth has taught him more about grace, than that of the love, which is in his wife.  Indeed Yashee can only see the extent of God’s blessings upon him because of this love.  Without it he would be blind. 

Without his wife, Yashee had forgotten to bring himself a spare shirt, in case he would get wet.  He pondered a solution to this problem which included buying one from some cheap outlet.  Being a home grown Lebanese boy, he also wore singlets.  Not only do singlets keep people warm, but Yashee could think of a thousand situations where singlets had helped either him or his brother in many situations.  Singlets can also become good bandages, or even fire fighting weapons, once they have been soaked in water, to extinguish a fire which itself was started with a singlet!  This time, Yashee thought about using his singlet as a second dry shirt. 

Having left the keys at home, Yashee had to climb through a window to get in.  Whilst doing this he managed to get his shirt and singlet wet.  Yashee remembered his plan. He turned on the bright halogen light and rested the singlet close to it so it could dry.  His plan was to start work and use the singlet after work as a dry shirt.  It was already lunch time and Yashee had not even started work.  He sat on the timber veranda and ate a Lebanese roll wrapped over tuna.  Tuna rolls are a big favourite amongst the Lebanese community.   

He began to smell some type of smoke and looked around to see if he could notice anything unusual.    The smell seemed to get stronger but he remained occupied with his tuna roll.  Once he had finished, Yashee began walking towards the bathroom in order to wash the oil of his hands, which had managed to make its way down the roll and onto his fingers.  He noticed the room was full of smoke and automatically remembered the singlet.  As he approached he could only see a massive whole burning its way through the singlet.  He grabbed it and ran towards the bathroom vanity in order to extinguish it.   

Walking back towards the light Yashee began to laugh.  “How silly” he thought, “from two shirts to one!” 

By this stage the rain had died down to a drizzle.  Yashee began his work.  Whilst working on the house Yashee would set tasks for each day he was there.  Today, his task was to cut the grass, do some gardening, and lay the turf.  He had also driven his father’s Ute so he could collect everything which remained after the destruction of the pool.  Yashee was determined to finish everything, so he worked hard.   

Yashee was the type of person who did not mind physical work.  Whereas some types of work require the use of the mind, physical labour frees the mind and works the body.  Yashee enjoyed working on his parent’s farm because of the free time it gave his mind and the ability to employ it with whatever ideas one chooses.  Most of the time, Yashee would employ his mind with theological, or philosophical issues, which were nurtured by his studies.  In 2007 Yashee had completed his degree and 2008 brings with it yet another decision about its future.  His thoughts had tended to become more worldly based lately, perhaps due to his age, and the responsibility life was demanding of him.  One can fantasise as much as they want about the world, but reality always manages to catch up with them.  Reality was occupying all of Yashee’s thoughts, including the reality that his only shirt was getting wet and dirty. 

After a few hours of hard labour Yashee decided to take a break.  As he sat down, he could only feel the coldness on his wet shoulders.  He thought about how he could fix it.  Staring towards the kitchen he saw the oven.  So he turned it on and placed his shirt in it, regularly turning it, so the same thing would not happen.  He wanted to save his only shirt.  The size of his smile grew with the steam as it rose of the shirt.  He was happy that now he would not only have a dry shirt, but a warm one too. 

With his newly dried shirt, Yashee continued his work.  Amongst other things, Yahsee had to move the pool fencing which was no longer needed.  These were two and a half metre sections of steel fencing.  He lifted them on his shoulder and loaded them on the Ute, one at a time.  He also loaded up all other debris which remained.  Whilst doing this, Yashee kept experiencing an odd smell which seemed to come and go at will.  At first he thought it was the smell of some cooking taking place close by, but after it persisted, he began to think again.  As he sniffed around like a dog, he was led to his own shirt.  The heat from the oven had managed to cook the mud and dirt which had soiled his shirt and the result was an unbearably foul smell.  It was giving Yashee a headache and making his nauseous.  He got to a point where he could no longer bear it and had to take off his shirt.  This time his laughter was nearly brought to tears as he thought about his situation.  “From two shirts to none!” he said to himself. 

On his drive home, he called his wife to tell her that he had managed to end up with no shirt.  As he left Kariong it began raining heavily again.   

“Now what can I learn from this riddle?” asked Yashee.  Now he had even more things to think about on his way home, and like all things, he knew they were all interrelated in some mysterious way. 

Again Yashee came to see how the simplest of events could speak many words of wisdom.  We spend so much energy worrying and trying to fix things, never acknowledging the fact that our power is minimal when it comes to things.  Even when we succeed at our attempts, the result is far from perfect, and often we get confused as to why.  After all Yashee’s attempts to stay dry, he would have been drenched if it were not for the weather.  “Even when I succeeded”, he said to himself, “I failed”.  If it is one thing that 2007 had taught him, it was the reality that we all fail.  We do ourselves a lot of justice and understanding if we acknowledge this and are humbled by it. It is said that some Muslims always leave things built by humans imperfect in respect to this truth.  Only God is perfect, and he is the one that brings good out of our evil, peace out of our wars, and joy out of our suffering.  All goodness comes from Him.  We are only good in as much as he is guiding us in his own mysterious and often unknown ways.   

Yashee remembered the dream he had when he stayed in Armidale for one night with his family on their way to Queensland for a holiday.  In this dream he was seated around the Pope with many others that he knew.  Whilst answering a question, the Pope was interrupted and seemed to get a little bit agitated.   The whole time this was happening Yashee was pondering what question he was going to ask the Pope.  He remembers how nervous and anxious he was in the dream whilst thinking about this question. Yashee wanted to ask the Pope, why it is that we must fail.  At this point he was woken by his first son who stood in front of the motel window pointing at the Cathedral which lay directly opposite the room.  The tears could not stop flowing from Yashee’s eyes that morning as he received the Eucharist.  It was then, with the help of his wife, that he began to see the lesson of 2007.  An inherent failure which plagues our world and our existence.  If this failure is acknowledged however, for what it is, it can revolutionise a person’s existence.          

In contemplating why it is that we have this failure, Yashee thought about the first humans’ choices in the Garden, and came to see that it is a result of a misguided freedom.  Freedom is the ability to choose good from bad, but once the ability to do this is assumed, the effect is that bad choices tend to become disguised as good.  Inherent failure is therefore a consequence of a misunderstood freedom.   

Thinking about all the decisions Yashee had to make this New Year, he realised that he was free to choose either way, yes or no.  But Yashee also knew that it was impossible to see the future consequences of his decisions whichever way he chose to go.  We decide based on our assumptions about today and the future.  In reality one does not know which way is better with regards to happiness in the future – so much can happen, and so much can change.  Yashee began to see a new understanding of what freedom could mean.  Freedom is more the ability to be beyond choice, an ability to transcend the confines of time.  Inevitably one must choose between yes or no, but the more one realises that the right choice may be the opposite to what one is thinking, the greater their ability to find themselves making the right decision.  To be free is to be able to transcend beyond the forces which play with the human mind and have the ability to acknowledge the right path rather than create it.  When Jesus pleaded with his Father in Gethsemane, he was finding it hard to see how such a murderous act could bring about the salvation of the world.  He was free to say no and walk away.  Placing his faith in the Father however, Jesus chose to accept what was about to happen to him, knowing that the One who can see all things, is greater than can be humanly imagined.  Jesus, in his human nature, could not begin to fathom how his murder could lead to the salvation of the world.  But His faith allowed him to make the right choice and his transcendental freedom gave him power beyond the particular details and forces of his situation.  This is the freedom Yashee longed for now.     

Although he had two shirts, Yashee wanted three.  Yashee also learnt that one must truly acknowledge what they already have as being enough, and cherish it like their last.  What we have is better than nothing, and unless we see this, there is a real risk that we will end up with nothing.  Life is perfect as it is, and countless are the people who have lost it whilst trying to make it better.  Happiness comes from such acknowledgement.                    

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