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Get On A Horse! A Horse is Amazing!

February 2, 2011

Six weeks ago, facebook connected me with the man who was the youth minister of the Southern Baptist church I grew up in, and with his wife.

I speak of the youth minister when in fact, the church churned through a new youth pastor every two or three years, thereby giving me insight into how not to govern a nonprofit organization that would serve me well in my later career, but in the case of Tom and Jill, even though they were only at my church for two years and change, they had a huge effect on me.

It was through Tom and Jill that I learned that I don’t make friends, I just discover them — knowledge that has served me well during my peripatetic adulthood.  It was also through my friendship with Tom and Jill, especially Jill, that I began to see adults as people, and as peers. That’s a tricky phase of adolescence, and one some people never quite achieve, but I did, and it started when Tom told me his wife was new in Miami and could use a friend, so I should step up to the plate.

That the new youth minister’s beautiful wife wanted to be friends with awkward tenth grade me blew my mind. I’ve never been good at pulling off false humility, but this was the real McCoy. I stopped short of out-and-out hero worship, but whenever I read Anne Shirley’s empurpled prose about Miss Stacey, her “beloved teacher,” the face that always pops into my mind’s eye is Jill’s.

Tom appeared on facebook a couple of months ago in the “people you may know” column. I waited a couple of days, thinking, “After twenty-three years, and two decades of being a minister with all the people they must have mentored, are they even going to remember me?” and then sent a friend request each to Tom and to Jill.

Jill started it: “You live in Dallas? Dallas? That’s four hours away! We’re in Oklahoma! We have horses! When are you coming to see me?”

After she repeated the invitation repeatedly, I figured it was earnest, and not just polite, so last Friday we loaded the kids into the car and took off.

I’m not above bribing my children into good behavior, but I know the limitations of that method, so instead I appealed to their better nature:

Miss Jill and Mr Tom are very important to me. If you kids are obnoxious I will be humiliated, and they have horses, so if you ever ever ever want them to invite you back, you’d better be polite, because if you are rude, you will not see these wonderful people, nor their wonderful horses, ever again.

In the case of my kids, better nature equals the cognitive ability to understand the long term consequences of actions.

It was, predictably, a wonderful visit. There’s lots to say about the joys of seeing old friends, and about the particular and unique wonderfulness of these particular and unique friends of mine, and I am sure I will say it at some point, but, Oh! Horses!

Jill saddled up two of her horses and plunked my kids on them and walked them over to the ring. There are a lot of joys in parenthood, but seeing your kids ride a horse for the first time has got to rank up toward the very top.

Then we plunked the kids in front of a movie and Chris and Jill and I mounted up to do some trail riding.

Seeing your husband ride a horse for the first time ranks up there with seeing your kids do it, only better.

Sitting on Jill’s horse, I could feel all the things that are wrong with me evaporating like mist rising from snow.

I know there is no magic bullet to curing cancer, to overcoming fear, to rebuilding what was lost, but if there were one, it would come in horse shape.

I don’t make a lot of predictions about the future, but I’m going to wager on more horses in our lives.

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