What Would Uncle Johnny Do?
The other day, when I was experiencing my all too familiar temptation to tighten up and press harder to solve a little problem, I somehow got an image of my Uncle Johnny and heard the little invitation, “What would Uncle Johnny do in this situation?”. A little smile came to me and the tension I was feeling immediately lessened.
Growing up, my Uncle Johnny was the fun relative. He lived in my parents’ hometown of Hendersonville, North Carolina, which has always held some mystical power for me. I rarely remember Uncle Johnny without a smile. He had an easy laugh. The corners of his mouth naturally turned up instead of down. When he laughed, his head moved back and his face upwards as he relished the experience. It wasn’t a performance; he just had a light spirit.
Uncle Johnny was the first person I saw remove his own thumb. You know the trick where you put your thumb in your palm and hold the other thumb with your forefinger and slide it down your hand so it looks like you’re taking half your thumb off. The first time I saw that, I really wondered for a second if he had actually done it. Then I knew it was just another playful gesture.
In Aunt Sue’s and Uncle Johnny’s kitchen there was a “dog house” on the wall. There were little dogs, each with a name of one of the family members: Johnny, Sue, Tom, Robin, and Ric. When one of them had committed an offense, their dog with their name on it would be put “in the dog house.” It was always fun to see who was in the dog house. Uncle Johnny was there as often as any of the children.
When we vacationed at the beach in the summer, Uncle Johnny and Uncle Bee (not really an uncle but Johnny’s best friend) loved to wake us all up early for a huge breakfast. Every morning about 6:00, we would be wakened to the sound of a train coming through the house. They had a record player they would carry to the beach and a recording of a train. Turned up full blast, it woke us all up generally with laughter. One morning, cousin Ric decided to sleep through the train noise. Uncle Johnny went outside, turned the hose on and shot it through Ric’s bedroom window soaking him and the bed and everything else in the room.
Uncle Johnny was unconventional but boy did I love him! He was such a contrast to the bear-down-and-push-harder sort of voice that I carried around in my head. His life actually was probably harder than most people’s but he approached things playfully.
Just asking myself, “What would Uncle Johnny do?”, is a corrective for me. It allows me to pause and reflect and entertain the truth that things are not quite as hard as I might imagine them to be. It connects me to the lighter spirit available in life, one that I often overlook but one that brings such freedom when I remember.
There are so many little parts of the bigger truth of God’s love for us. We roll along in life tending to forget some of those little parts. When they re-present themselves we are made new and come into ourselves more fully.
What are some messages of God’s love that you tend to forget? Who might be the people who jostle you back into knowing love? Embrace those little places and grow into God’s kingdom.
Robert C. Wisnewski, Jr.