Richard Carlson

Richard Carlson

I once read of a farmer who made square boxes for his watermelons to grow in so he could ship them easier. He claimed it worked. Don’t get the wild idea if you ever see a square watermelon that its seeds will produce square watermelons. Watermelon seeds only produce round or elliptically shaped watermelons, without exception.

We live in a world today that is clamoring almost always, trying to squeeze us into conformity to its mold. The pressure is great to become something we are not, so that we can all come out looking the same. Back in 1962, Pete Seeger sang a song with words and music by Malvina Reynolds called “Little Boxes.” Malvina and her husband were on their way from where they lived in Berkeley, California, through San Francisco and down the peninsula to La Honda where she was to sing at a meeting of the Friends’ Committee on Legislation.

As she drove through Daly City, she said “Bud, take the wheel. I feel a song coming on.” Her song speaks of the futility and even the tragedy of conformity. She wrote a song most of us have known now for years.

It goes, “Little boxes on the hillside, Little boxes made of ticky-tacky. Little boxes on the hillside, Little boxes all the same. There’s a green one and a pink one, and a blue one and a yellow one, and they’re all made, out of ticky-tacky, and they all look just the same.

“And the people in the houses, All went to the university, Where they were put in boxes, And they came out all the same, And there’s doctors and lawyers, And business executives, And they’re all made out of ticky-tacky, And they all look just the same.

“And they all play on the golf course, And drink their martinis dry, And they all have pretty children, And the children go to school, And the children go to summer camp, And then to the university, Where they are put in boxes, And they come out all the same.

“And the boys go into business, and marry and raise a family, in boxes made of ticky-tacky, and they all look just the same. There’s a green one and a pink one, and a blue one and a yellow one, and they’re all made, out of ticky-tacky, and they all look just the same.”

Have you and I been pressured by the big squeeze in our world? Even in this pandemic, we can sometimes feel like we are being squeezed to death. Surely, there is a rightful place for team players to all be wearing the same colored jerseys on a basketball team. Whether its skins against shirts or one team wearing white and the other team in black, there is a time when each team member must be dressed alike.

But conformity to others doesn’t usually bring home fish when we are out fishing. Everyone fishes best with his own pole and his own lures. Who doesn’t know the story of David and Goliath? David made a wise choice when he turned down King Saul’s armor and stayed with what he knew best, his sling and a stone.

What’s your purpose these days in life during this pandemic, as an individual or in your organization? Not everyone will make a perfect McSame hamburger. I greatly enjoy going in Salt Lake City to one of the burger places that originated in the Washington, D.C., area. Their burgers are amazing. It’s “Five Guys, Burgers and Fries,” and the one I most often go to is on 1148 E. Fort Union Blvd. in Midvale. I first tried this restaurant in Harrisonburg, Virginia, quite a few years ago. It stands second to none for me, as a different place where you can eat peanuts and throw the shells on the floor. The burgers are great.

How often I sit on boards or chair board meetings when it comes up that what really makes us all the team players that we are, is that we are all so different, so diverse in our styles and our manner of leading. None of us need to duplicate each other to be successful or to be fruitful. What we do need to do is to be faithful, and in that trustworthy integrity, to not be afraid to do what each of us does best, what God has uniquely qualified us to do — to serve Him with our own giftings faithfully.

When I am in New York, Houston, Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, or any other big city, I rarely, if ever, go to a chain store for anything. I relish finding a corner Jewish, Swedish, Greek, Mexican, or Portuguese restaurant, or a department store that is unknown to me. Variety still speaks volumes and colors our squeezed world.

In this pandemic, helping a neighbor get groceries, shoveling wet spring snow off a sidewalk, or bringing flowers to a lonely shut-in, is not the norm. Nevertheless, it may be God’s call and it may turn a despairing soul around today.

Richard Carlson is the pastor of the Rock Springs Evangelical Free Church. Of his 52-plus years in ministry, he has pastored locally for the last 43 years.

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