Back in the old days when I was growing up, there was no air conditioning. When it was hot in our old church building somebody would open the big, dusty windows. I liked to sit so I could see outside the windows and watch the trees sway in the breeze and see the birds flying up in the sky.
There were screens in the windows and the prevailing thought was to leave the doors in the back wide open to invite a cooling breeze into the building. The screens didn’t always screen so well but those wanting the slight breeze won over those wanting a bug-free church service. You see with the doors wide open chances were good that several insects, possibly including bees or wasps would be flying among us along with an assortment of flies, hard shelled flying bugs and what we called millers. Those things that looked like butterflies but were drab in appearance and when they were squished they just kind of melted. I think the proper term is moth. You know the things moth ball were invented for?
One hot Sunday morning after the congregation settled down from singing several rousing hymns my brothers and I settled back for the big challenge of the day. We had to sit still and be quiet for for the preacher’s thirty minute sermon.
We were sitting side by side on the old, oak pew benches, sticking to them because of our wet with sweat Sunday shirts. Tim was next to Dad, and I was in the middle and Dan on the other side of me.
Dan was older and his class got Sunday School take home papers. Tim and I were left to our own devices. For a while, as the preacher began his sermon, all was well. But of course it couldn’t last. Soon Dan busily folded his Sunday School paper a bunch of times and then he began fanning his face and looking at me with smug grin. Before I could think of a move to counter Dan’s homemade fan Tim grabbed the hymn book set it on his lap and flipped the pages into his face and then he gave me a smug look of his own. And when I tried to tell him, “it’s my turn!” Dad reached over and thumped the back of my head.
Now Dan’s smug grin got even wider. But then Tim dropped the hymnbook with a loud thud. The preacher paused for a moment and several ladies swiveled their heads in our direction. When the preacher resumed preaching Dad nudged Tim and looked at the poor hymnal laying half opened on the floor.
Tim crawled to the floor to pick it up and Dad put his hand out and took the hymnal from him. Tim reluctantly complied and resumed his position on the pew with us. But now he no longer had a smug look on his face.
For a few minutes the preacher was allowed to preach in silence if you don’t count the whirring of the wings of the bugs and then I began to get restless. The only other sound besides the preacher was the sniffling nose blowing and occasional sneezes from the preacher’s wife as she struggled through the summer morning with her hay fever.
I quietly squirmed in the pew but not too far because I didn’t want to risk another thump on the head.
Looking for a distraction I scanned the back of the pew in front of me. In the hymnal rack I noticed something resting near the bottom. When I was sure Dad wasn’t looking I reached forward and felt in the rack and almost jerked my hand out again when I touched something soft and fuzzy. But now Dan and Tim were watching me with interest. Taking a deep breath I stuck my hand all the way down in the hymnal rack and grabbed the dark colored cardboard contraption. At first I wasn’t sure what it was. It was yellowed on one side and the other side had faded color to it. And parts of it looked like somebody very hungry had gnawed off part of it.
It must have been a really long sermon, I thought. I looked around and saw Doris, our ancient piano playing lady holding something similar that was unfolded. And she was fanning her face!
Aha! I thought. I gently unfolded the ancient cardboard carefully so it would stay together and suddenly I had a fan! Part of the end was missing but as I waved it in front of my face the cool air felt good. I looked at Dad and he gave me a stern look but didn’t take the fan from me. Then I looked at Dan and he mouthed ‘trade?’ at me with raised eyebrows. I shook my head ‘no’.
Now I had something he wanted so I returned his smug grin. I looked at Tim and he gave me the same stern look as Dad. Only I ignored him.
But as I held the fan away from Dan, Tim grabbed it. I was just about to give it a good yank back when Dad’s hand thumped Tim on the back of the head. Tim dropped the fan and quickly folded his hands in his lap.
I glanced at Dad and he gave me another stern look then looked at Tim. I knew what he meant and I sighed. But I knew better than to risk another thump. I fanned myself a couple more times then handed the fan to Tim.
Dan, who was watching the whole thing smiled magnanimously and handed me his Sunday School paper so I could resume some fanning and for the rest of the sermon my brothers and I shared the two fans with each other while we listened to the snifflings and sneezes of the preacher’s wife and watched the older ladies dodge the bees and wasps and flies with sometimes a gasp or the flapping of a hat. It was hard not to giggle when a tired old miller landed on the back of Doris’ neck. Even Dad grinned at that.
Phillipians 2.3-4 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.
Galations 6.2-3 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.