The carnival ride: What vomiting on others taught me about grace.

One sunny summer day when I was about ten years old, my brother Spartacus, a neighbor kid, and I walked to the town carnival. Upon arrival we arm-wrestled to see who would choose the first ride. After great embarrassment on my part, it was decided that the first ride for all of us (unknowingly, the last ride for me) would be the “Tilt-O-Whirl.” As we slid into the slick plastic whirly car, I carefully wedged myself in the middle spot so as to not fall out. One positive thing about The Whirl was that you got A LOT of time on the ride for only 25 cents. Perhaps one tiny, little, negative, thing was the spinning around again and again and again and again and again no matter how many times a little kid cried and screamed for it to end.

“Stop the machine! I’m gonna puke!”
Mr. Whirl Operator was NOT paid to listen.
So, I puked (i.e. lost my cookies big time) on Mr. Whirl Operator’s Whirl Machine.

A cool thing about the tilting PLUS the whirling was that at the end of it all there was no puke on me. Had it only been whirling and no titling I think, perhaps, things would have been different. Also, had I not been violently shaking my head from side-to-side during the whirling, perhaps a cookie or two that I had lost would have dropped onto my own lap. But, to my advantage, I not only shared my cookies with my companions, I gave them all away.

Now here’s the great thing — even though Spartacus and Neighbor Kid where covered in my “cookie dough,” they weren’t even a little bit upset. In spite of looking and smelling nasty, they rode all the rides that afternoon while my stomach and I were content to quietly watch from the curb. Later that afternoon, the three of us all walked home together laughing and whacking each other along the way. That day we had the time of our lives.

I’m older and wiser now and try avoid whirling of any kind. However, when traveling with teenagers last summer our group had to take a rough one and one-half hour ferry boat ride to get to our destination. About 20 minutes into the trip, my vertigo got the best of me and for the first time in nearly 30 years I threw up. There I was crumpled in front of a waste basket heaving in a near fetal position, too dizzy and weak to stand. One of our students, Sweet Kind Girl (not her real name), gently patted my back as I continued to heave into the basket for the next 20 minutes. Sweet Kind Girl told me later that it was all she could do to not get sick herself.

I’m sure these two stories have nothing in common other than vomit . . . vomit and grace. Grace: Grace to not take one’s self or others too seriously. Grace to smile and forgive and move on when someone has messed all over you. Grace to comfort another when the circumstances make you want to puke. Child-like grace. Christ-like grace. I’m thankful for grace.

Calvin G. Roso © January 2014

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