Sen. Joe Benning called me recently and asked if he could come over to our farm and use his metal detector.
My reply was, “Sure, Joe, come ahead. I did not know you did metal detecting as a hobby. What are you looking for?”
Because Joe is my long time friend and not because he is the well-known senator and state senate minority leader, I joked about his looking at things a little differently beneath the surface.
I first knew that Joe existed because his son and my grandson went to school together at Lyndon Institute and were good friends.
Then I saw Joe campaigning years ago. He was vigorously waving to folks at the roadside in Lyndonville.
Joe sat at my side in those magnificent Senate chairs in the great House chamber. I knew many of the Senators and often teased the Senate because I believed God loves both the Democrats and the Republicans. Laughter always came to ease whatever tension may have been present.
I should tell you that I tried to be impartial when appearing before the House and Senate.
In fact, I know as you do that few senators are more respected and appreciated than my friend and Democrat, Jane Kitchel of Danville.
The podium in the House chamber is a familiar place for me. I have given prayers at the inaugurations of Gov. Peter Schumlin and Gov. Phil Scott. I was blessed also to be at the podium with Gov. Douglass sharing in a Memorial Service for Lt. Gov. Snelling.
Thinking of memorial services I should let you know that through the years Joe has repeatedly and always asked me to conduct his funeral because both he and I are old friends and we are in good health at the moment. I can muse light-heartedly about our shared sense of our own mortality. Neither one of us wants to win the race to our physical finish, but we are fascinated by what is beneath the surface of things in life.
So Joe came over to engage in his hobby of metal detecting. There he was by my barn foundation, by the roadside, by the old sugarhouse and by the pile of stones which were under some building once upon a time.
His first trip he found nothing of great significance under the grass and roses.
Joe, in good lawyer fashion, reminded me that I said, “Sure, you can keep anything that your detector finds.” I thought anybody that does the work looking beneath the surface of things should hold onto what they find.
Such a point of view was natural for me. After all, I am a pastor. I value greatly what we find in ourselves and in life in general when we look beneath the surface of things, the surface of ourselves and others.
On a subsequent visit I saw Joe’s face through the window door of our kitchen. No kids face could have conveyed more joy and excitement in the discovery phase of play.
Perhaps you will remember my column last month about the child within us. For example, there is the almost uncontrollable excitement of discovery in a child’s mind.
I went out on our porch, and Joe put his hand out in the bright afternoon sunshine to show me his great find from beneath the surface.
It was a small silver coin not quite the size of a dime. On it was a reference to something Spanish. The date was clear: 1782!
Only for a moment did I regret my agreement to let the lawyer possess what he had found. Not even my bias against some lawyers could overwhelm my shared joy in the senator’s discovery. It got me to thinking about my long-held satisfaction, in particular my career as a pastor and counselor. What a joy it is to find beneath the surface of things something of value. It probably would not be the value of coins or even the much sought after things that coins can buy.
Now with September here with the beauty of color comes our shared appreciation of what is both going on beneath the surface and above ground. As in so many ways, it’s all connected.
After all, the whole world comes to see the leaves in the Northeast Kingdom. I remember years ago when two buses from Missouri and Arkansas pulled up in front of the Peacham Church, and over a hundred people popped out to photograph the magnificent maple color surrounding the old Meetinghouse. It was an added sweetness to a maple season's sweetness of several prior months.
Though I am a very poor botanist, I understand to some degree what happens when trees change their color.
I am equally fascinated by their root systems. My family plants several thousand Christmas tree transplants every spring on our farm. The root systems are amazing to consider.
I muse often about what's beneath the surface and above ground and it’s interrelatedness.
For example, we cannot cut balsam brush for wreath makers until after the second hard frost, usually long after September.
I truly never ceased to be amazed how the perennials beneath the surface of our gardens can reappear from the bitter cold and all that snow.
So, Joe, my joyful friend, your detection of a coin could not compare to my joy of pondering what is beneath the surface everywhere.
But thanks to you and so many others who remind me every beautiful September day how good it is just to be grateful, joyful and fully alive!
Bob Potter lives with his family in Wheelock and pastors the Monadnock Congregational Church of the Great North Woods in Colebrook, NH. He can be reached at email@example.com