As I have written previously, during the pandemic once every two weeks, we have a Zoom call with a dear group of college friends.
Generally, we gather on Sunday afternoons at five. Without too many absences, Steve, Dan, Steve, Doug, Butch, plus spouses and an occasional pet join the calls.
My wife and I have enjoyed our hour long calls. This is a good way for us to stay in touch and learn how we are doing in the madness of the pandemic.
While we hear about ailments, house projects, travel, grandchildren, and children, for me I’m selfishly present for the mental health of laughter. No matter how serious the conversation can turn, we have an abundance of self-deprecating humor. I usually feel better after that Zoom call.
On Sunday, September fifth, Dan and his wife, Judy, gave us a blow by blow account of dealing with an unwanted guest in their basement—a squirrel.
It seems to me that many people have stories about squirrel intrusions.
During Christmas celebrations where my wife’s parents lived in Connecticut, I remember multiple times my father-in-law furiously banging on the kitchen window. He was attempting to chase off an acrobatic squirrel that landed on a bird feeder.
Sometimes, in the drought of a hot summer, squirrels have ravaged our tomatoes for the moisture in them.
One spring, two squirrels found their way into our attic. Our son and I put on pants, long sleeved shirts, gloves, hats, and declared war. We were armed with pump action super soaker water guns. I had filled their holding tanks with ammonia.
We were closed up in the attic. We made lots of noise and poking with long poles to rouse up the squirrels. Sure enough, they didn’t like the disturbance. Without any hesitation, we soaked the squirrels with the ammonia. They didn’t like our hospitality.
Another time when I was out of town, a squirrel fell down the chimney into our fireplace. Luckily, the wire mesh and glass doors contained him. He croaked a couple of days later.
Once I saw firsthand the damage a squirrel can do in a house. A squirrel entered an elderly neighbor’s home via the chimney. She was away visiting family. That squirrel tore the place up.
For our college friends, they were lucky. Dan had gone into the workout room of their basement. As he entered the room, Dan caught a glimpse of something gray moving.
At first, Dan thought it was their cat, Omar. But, he reasoned the door was closed, no way Omar could have entered the workout room, and next that gray flash was not Omar’s coloring.
Dan has his private pilot’s license, plus he is certified to train people to fly, so his eyes were not playing tricks on him. As he surveyed the room again, Dan saw the head of a squirrel pop up from behind a pillow on the couch.
Now the fun started.
Like all good husbands, he quickly called in reinforcements—his wife, Judy. Not wanting the squirrel to scamper up one of her legs, Judy came down wearing a dress and knee high rain boots.
All they had to do was shoo the squirrel through a door that empties into the backyard. Of course, the squirrel was having none of this. He countered every containment move with a more clever move.
Perspiring and frustrated, Dan put out an SOS call for two of his neighbors to assist. They showed up with a fishing net, another type of netting, and adolescent humor. Noticing Judy’s attire, one neighbor commented she looked like a stripper. Luckily, Judy didn’t clobber him.
So, now four frazzled adults are after this wacky squirrel whose nervous digestive track is dropping poop balls around the room. After more sweaty minutes and possibly lots of swearing, the squirrel makes the wrong move. Dan with help is able to pin him so that a thin board can be slid behind him for containment.
With more luck, they get him out of the basement into the backyard. The panting and the perspiration slow down.
The next day, the carpet and upholstery cleaners arrive. Dan determines that his chimney cap was worn and failed. The squirrel fell down the chimney into the basement where a wood stove had once connected to the chimney. The squirrel had chewed through the plastic lid covering the connection hole.
The chimney cap has been replaced, and with sheet metal, Dan formed a stronger cover for the previous stove connection in the wall.
Nothing like the chaos of a squirrel to turn a house upside down.
Perhaps, you know the Tom Hanks’ movie Castaway. Early in the film, Hanks portraying FedEx employee, Chuck Noland, is a passenger on one of the company’s huge cargo planes. On this trip, the plane encounters a monstrous storm over the ocean. The plane despite the crew’s efforts can’t handle the stress of the weather. Chaos ensues as the plane crashes into the ocean. Chuck Noland is the only survivor. His life is turned upside down. No one knows he survived the crash.
In our world, people experience chaos everyday, their lives are turned upside down.
Recent examples are Afghanistan, Haitian earthquake, Hurricane Ida, wildfires out West, and of course our on-going saga with COVID-19.
At times, I wonder how much more chaos can people withstand?
And then I think, historically, chaos has existed in this old world since it was hurled together.
Perhaps, we have become numb to chaos. We think it is normal for lives to be turned upside, lost forever, or wearied to the point that they can’t muster a comeback.
Think about how many people feel like that squirrel— trapped by their own regrettable split second decisions, or caught in vicious societal cycles that we as a country have failed to change.
Yet, as dismal as the results of the chaos appear, I will continue to hold on to hope.
In our Sunday Zoom gathering, I heard two examples of love that gave hope.
Butch, who was my college roommate, is also by training a pastor. He shared how a difficult conversation with a church member helped the individual to change. Over a period of time, and with help, this person made needed adjustments in a number of daily routines. Life is now better for this individual.
Dan, the squirrel chaser, talked about his role on a foundation that secures used musical instruments for school students. The work of the foundation reduces the financial burdens for families in trying to provide the instrument.
I’ll take those rays of hope in the chaos of daily troubling headlines.
When the world is really bad, I will confess I am quick to wonder where is God in this mess?
Well, God is in the hearts of the people who will respond or have responded to Afghanistan, Haiti, Ida, wildfires, and COVID-19.
God is in the hearts of individuals who work to help those who made terrible life altering decisions, as well as those who are working to breakdown our malignant societal cycles.
And in a crazy way, God was at work with the squirrel trapped in the basement room. Dan and Judy have built relationships with neighbors. Dan knew he could make a call and help would arrive.
Maybe, that is how God thinks.
Maybe, he knows in chaos, he can make some calls, and nudge some hearts into action.
Maybe, the real question is this—will you, me, we, take his call to assist when chaos overwhelms a person?