Weekly Message from T. J.

Taking the Hint

“Are you OK?” I didn’t know why he was asking me that. Maybe he saw me wipe out on my wave and was concerned. I’m not an expert surfer to say the very least. I am not even a novice surfer. I think I’d have to stand up more than once or twice in an hour to call myself even a novice. I am more of a floater on a board trying not to annoy anyone else in the water. I only realized later that I’d jumped the line and dropped in on this guy’s wave. So when he asked if I was OK, I feared he was hinting I should be more courteous, even though my friend assured me he was honestly concerned.

My friend visiting me now is a good surfer, so he was kind enough to explain more than anyone else has ever explained about surfing to me. He even gave me unrequested tips in the kindest and clearest spirit of goodwill. But even as spiritually mature as I like to imagine myself, doing things that I am not good at already presents challenges to my ego and to my pride. But I persisted in the water.

“You need to dig deeper, cup your hands, and work harder to get the wave.” The suggestions from my friend, the near miss with the kind person whose wave I spoiled, and general exhaustion sent me out of the water. I sat watching my friend catch wave after wave. I watched him spin to meet the waves. I watched him choose an angle (not straight at the shore) to catch the wave. Most importantly I watched him watch the others. Then he came to shore to rest and chat. He said, “That guy was super chill about the wave.” I said, “Yeah close call.” And then we looked at my board.

The side of my soft top (lingo for a Styrofoam) board had two cuts in it. They looked like someone took a knife to the board and sliced it open, inches deep. I realized in that moment that the fins on the bottom of the board that belonged to the man worried about my safety had made those marks, those slices. My friend said, “That could have been your head.” And a few minutes later my friend took to the water again, with my soft top in hand, leaving his more buoyant board with me.

A few minutes later, a single rouge wave lapped up under me where I thought I was safe on shore. It toppled the can of seltzer I was enjoying and lifted the board a little off the sand. I took the hint. I wrapped the board under my arm, paddled out to meet my friend, and when the time came, I spun like I saw him spin, I dug in deeper like he said, and I rode my first wave to shore. I guess leaving behind what I thought I knew, leaning on something new, following kind suggestions, and recognizing how my actions impact others can lead to an experience like none I’ve had before. Sometimes the hints we get don’t matter much compared to the hints we take.

And may it ever be so,
Rev. T. J. FitzGerald

One Response to “Weekly Message from T. J.

  1. Rev T. J. Every time I read something you have written about yourself. A smile comes on my face. I hope you share the articles with your parents.

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