It has been nearly 40 years since Julie and I took our kids to the circus. I mean the old traveling Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus that came to town one very early misty Florida morning.
We had seen an article in the local paper that not only was the circus on the way, but it would be unloading the train cars out on the fairgrounds starting around sunrise. We put the kids to bed early and told them they were in for a great surprise! We basically drug John, George and Jennifer out to the car, packed them and what we figured they'd need in the cargo space and drove to the location given by the paper.
When we arrived, the train was already on the side tracks and there were some big tough men, called roustabouts, being hollered at by an even tougher looking foreman. When everyone seemed to be in place, some platforms were set up, the side doors of the train cars opened and out came a half-dozen or more huge elephants. We got as close as we could so we could watch the handlers put a harness on each of those big old smelly scary elephants, which were then hooked up to some brightly painted wagons. It took the better part of two hours to unload all the wagons, poles, gadgets and gear.
A couple of those big old sweaty men came over, winked at the kids, and said, "Pretty nice, huh? Keep watching because we are going to do something you can't believe." On that empty field, with the heavy work done by very skillfully-led elephants, some of the tallest and heaviest poles you can imagine were put in place and held by dozens of steel cables. After the foreman examined every pole, every cable and every hook, he yelled at the animal handlers and the elephants slowly began to walk away pulling the ropes attached to the largest canvas I have ever seen. I don't believe our kids moved a muscle or blinked.
And there it was! The giant circus tent was raised and secured and waiting to be filled with all the contraptions necessary for the acrobats, clowns, dancers, musicians, lions, tigers, you name it, and the great spectacle the crowd will have been waiting to experience!
Julie and I looked at the kids and said, "Are you ready for the Big Top performance tonight?" And they said to us, "Nope. We've seen the circus. Let's go back to bed." You know? They were right.
This past Sunday, Julie and I came early to the Kiwanis' Fairgrounds to watch the trucks pull in to unload and set up for the wonderful fair we have been privileged to enjoy for the past 20-some years. The setup may not have been as fantastic as the one we watched with our children so long long ago, but the memories and the expectations have never changed.
Tuesday evening we came with friends and ate, of course, those delicious pancakes and sausages and then walked the grounds to see every ride and every booth. The best part was at sundown when the lights of the fair took over and the kids came running in with their parents. I heard a lot of, "Quit running! If you don't quit ... we're going home! No, you can't ride that!" All of this was, certainly, falling on deaf ears.
I am pretty sure of this fact: most every child will have eaten more funnel cakes than the law allows, ridden rides that adults have enough sense not to and had enough fun to last until next year when the fair comes back to town.
I often think that life is a lot like the circus and the fair all rolled into one: it's bigger than we could imagine and so complex that we are overwhelmed and so inviting we don't know where to begin. At times it's scary; other times it's fun, but it's an experience we just have to have. Some folks would rather sit back than take a chance. Some folks don't know when to quit.
In my quiet times, I like to envision that God has set the stage and I, like all of us, can make choices: be a roustabout, a foreman, a high-walker, a clown, a participant, an observer, a contributor, a user, an onlooker, a follower.
God has set life into motion. I can't wait to see what happens next!