Our version of spring break was pretty low key, certainly not the sort of thing that gives rise to college legends and C-grade movies. No beach parties, drunken brawls, or bail money involved. It was right pleasant, though. After dinner with a state legislator in Topeka on Thursday evening and the next morning observing the Kansas House of Representatives, Randa and I drove on up to Doniphan County. We had a wonderful time getting together with friends and family over the weekend. Some wonderful food shared, some really great conversations, sincere discussions and more than a few good laughs.
Of course, we had to leave that all behind on Monday and head back to Arkansas City. We drove through nearly three hundred miles of clouds, fog and intermittent rain. After unpacking the car on our return late in the afternoon, I scanned through office email and began handling a couple of semi-urgent issues. Not far into that, Randa asked me if I’d like a bowl of chili. Chili at the end of a dull and dreary day? Well, yes, I would love a bowl of chili.
I’ve liked chili for as long as I can remember, going all the way back to those winter days on that two-hundred-and-fifty acre dairy farm. Something about the smell and taste of spices, all those textures, the comfort of something fine and hot on a cold day. I especially love good chili after it’s had a while to season in the fridge for a few days and the seasonings permeate every bite. Even though all of the individual parts are still clearly recognizable—the different types of beans and peppers, the chunks of meat and everything else—it has all taken on all of the flavors that give each batch its own distinctive character.
Good families, good churches, good schools, and just about every other good human unit I can think of are like that, too. Each individual member clearly distinctive and yet each contributing to make something larger than the self. If every part had the nature of chili powder, who could stand to eat it?! If there were nothing with the character of spice, who would want it? It’s the combination that makes it “chili,” right?
I’ll admit that I don’t want to eat chili every single night of the year. Sometimes, a plate of beans and cornbread sounds mighty fine to me. But even then, I like a touch of seasoning. A little pepper on the beans and a bit of salt in the batter. Maybe even some minced onions. Like the points of differing opinion in a conversation, it takes a touch of something other than our own views to make relationships interesting and interactions worth the while. If our hearts and minds are not made larger in the process, then what’s the point?
Once we have mastered the fine and delicate art of retaining a sense of individuality while yet achieving a genuine unity that defines us in a larger purpose, we have made something truly fine.