By Blaney Pridgen
All writers in Op Ed are here to inform and acknowledge issues of importance to our communities, however these writings represent the views and opinions of the authors and not necessarily of The Advertiser.
Going down the road, my wife and I decided we wanted a soft serve ice cream cone. This decision never takes long. We prefer the cone from the most familiar and ever-present fast-food place. It’s cheapest and best. (Other ice cream places may charge as much for a cone as a meat-and-three of yesteryear for a full meal, tea, and pie.)
This was around 3:00. At the first stop, their ice cream machine was out of order. We rode on. Around 4:00, the second stop said they didn’t have ice cream today for some mysterious reason. We rode on. At the third stop, nearer the time to ruin our supper, they were out of cones, but the machine was working, and we could be served in a cup. Not the same. We rode on. That day, a full appetite for supper was saved by a sugar-free providence. As amateur theologians say, “even no answer to prayer is an answer.” But don’t get me wrong…we don’t pray for ice cream or parking places. We save up our prayer space for the big things. Ice cream will return.
The next day, we came across a familiar fast-food place that had ice cream and cones! The timing was perfect at an easy on-and-off and the sky was blue. We were blessed or lucky or perhaps both. Because of the mini famine of the previous day, the ice cream cone was the best we had enjoyed in a long time, or at least it seemed so.
I often scrounge around for hidden meanings in seemingly inexplicable experiences. Life is cluttered with many little disappointments, like litter along every road. Also, life contains huge milestone disappointments, like firings, divorces, and tombstones. If we can manage to hang in there with our hot mess of disappointments, there just may be a better day.
Speaking of roads and riding on, I have noticed many signs that warn, “Bridge may ice before roads” or something like that. Passing over the bridge, we often exclaim in duet, “Or, it may not!” The sign does not say, “Bridge can ice before roads” because the opposite “Bridge cannot ice” is not true except in the south of Florida, which wouldn’t need a sign anyway. “May” and “may not” are better words for coping with disappointments and dangers than “can” and “cannot”. They are softer and more manageable concepts. We may or may not find our favorite ice cream cone and we may or may not skid off into the river on a sneaky icy bridge. Life’s that way. In fact, if we live long enough, we discover that there is no “cannot happen” to any of life’s potential disappointments. “May not happen” is the truth. (Or it may.) Get over it and soldier on to tomorrow.
In conclusion to my scrounge for meaning, I was tempted to think that the fast-food place should keep the ice cream machine shipshape and cones in good supply with a reserve. And they ought to have a copious amount of whatever they put in those machines and top them off twice daily. But I don’t like “shoulds”and “oughts”. I suppose they are necessary in extreme situations. We say should or ought for the really big concerns. Overusing those words creates too much guilt and shame. Be careful listening to anyone who uses those words every day. They can make you disappointed and cannot make you happy. May or may not is too soft for the should and ought folks.