By Barb Arland-Fye
Rain erupted from the sky in Fish Creek, Wis., and then the power went out. Darkness swallowed up the lodge in which my family was staying. I took comfort knowing that my brother Pat was in a room to the right of ours, my brother Tim and his family were to the left of our room and my parents were just another door down from Tim’s family. All of them were in the dark, too.
We had come to Fish Creek to celebrate the 60th anniversary of our parents, Ray and Mary Arland, and enjoyed dinner at an Italian restaurant earlier that evening, the first night of our stay. Our youngest brother Brian and his family and Pat’s wife and children couldn’t join us for this family reunion, and their presence was missed.
When it became clear the power wouldn’t return soon, my husband Steve suggested that we — the two of us and our sons Colin and Patrick —call it a night. The only way to illuminate our room was with our iPhones, until the lodge owner knocked on our door and offered us a flashlight. He had no idea when the power would return. After he left, Colin needed reassurance to ease his autistic mind. “Dad, when will the power come back on?” “I don’t know, Colin, but they’re working on it,” Steve replied for the first of four or five times that Colin periodically asked the same question. Meanwhile, Patrick gave us regular updates about the number of places without power in the area. I was growing impatient.
Thoughts of a recent convocation of Catholic leaders that focused on the “Joy of the Gospel” came to mind. Participating in that convocation caused me to contemplate my relationships with family, friends, colleagues and strangers and whether or not I convey a Christ-like attitude in my interactions with them. Despite the darkness, I was on vacation with my family and other loved ones and had much reason to be joyful.
The power returned nearly seven hours after it went out. With the light of a new day, our outlook improved immensely. I got to go swimming at a new YMCA before we had breakfast and headed for North Port to catch a ferry to Washington Island. The island captivated our clan. We roamed the lavender fields and posed for photos. We ate lunch at an old-fashioned saloon with tasty sandwiches and pizza.
We got back on the ferry and went shopping in Sister Bay where we found Al Johnson’s famous restaurant with the green roof on which goats graze. That’s an image I won’t soon forget. The following morning our clan gathered for breakfast — our final opportunity for bonding time before heading back to our homes in Iowa, Minnesota and Arizona. What a blessing to have that time together!
In his apostolic exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium” (The Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis notes that the prophet Zephaniah presents God with his people in the midst of celebration overflowing with the joy of salvation. “This is the joy which we experience daily, amid the little things of life, as a response to the loving invitation of God our Father,” the Holy Father says.
Colin, reflecting on our trip, told me that after the power came back on at the lodge, “Everything was back on schedule!” For a person with autism, that is bliss. The joy we experienced in each other’s company — riding the ferry, playing in the lavender fields and shopping for treats and trinkets — echoes the observation of Pope Francis.
(Editor Barb Arland-Fye can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)