It was one of those rare Phoenix days when everything shimmered with a utopian light. (No, not recently!) Hot air balloons dotted the sky, and rocky mountain foothills struck a dramatic pose against the technicolor blue. Ancient saguaro raised their arms in praise of all creation. The sun was a friend and not the oppressor it would become a few months later. Temperatures hovered in the 70s, meaning no need for climate control. In other words: desert perfection. Arizona in springtime.
I walked in the door at the end of my work day (which, on a day like that, was probably about 2pm. Life is short, and the desert spring, even shorter). I was met at the door by a bouncing 3-year-old. She was holding a yellow teddy bear that I’d never seen before. “Mommy!” she squealed, “the man dropped this to me from the sky!”
‘Um…ok,’ i responded lamely, wondering what fun game i had missed. My husband appeared behind her. “No really,” he said, “a guy dropped it to her from the sky.”
From a motorized parasail, to be exact. This is what people do for fun in the desert utopia. They retire, and they buy things that fly in the sky, and then they find some nice piece of wilderness preserve, and arm themselves with toys in case they see kids hanging around in the backyards that border the area.
A couple hours later, i was rescuing that yellow bear from the family dog, who seemed to think it was his. I put it up in a cabinet. It wasn’t the 2-dollar toy that i wanted to preserve, but the story itself.
I wasn’t sure if a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old could remember something like that, but i hoped that they would. Because really, how often does an unexpected joy like that come falling, literally, from the sky, and into your very hands? I put the cheap bear away, to be remembered and celebrated at some later time. Because gifts from the sky are rare.
A few months later, that desert starts to look a little less like paradise, and a little more like something out of Dante. Hot and dry, unmerciful sun, visible waves of misery rising out of the dust. Everywhere, dust. The air does not move.
Then, after months of thirsty waiting–it starts to rain. Not a smattering tease, but a long, soaking mercy that we’d scarcely dared to dream about in the weeks before. As welcome as a bear in springtime–and as much a surprise to our parched senses–it speaks of abundance beyond all dreaming, and breathes life back into the wasted earth.
We run out to meet it, and the blessing falls into our very hands. And I’m reminded that gifts from the sky are more precious when they are rare–though maybe they are not so rare as I’d imagined.