Thursday, August 14, 2008



During my summer months when I was in college I worked at a large brewery in Newark, New Jersey. It took me a while to get used to the various jobs I was assigned but I soon got used to the routines. In my younger days, variations were easier to deal with. I guess we all stretch more easily in our younger years. I never knew what job I would be given on any given day. Sometimes I drove and delivered beer, other times I worked on the assembly lines and other times I mopped the large floors in the enormous warehouse.

There was a large silo near the shack where we would wait to get our job assignments. It was used to store the hops that went into the brewing of the beer. It was a very tall structure and made out of concrete. When I arrived at work one morning there was a crowd gathered at the silo and everyone was looking up. I parked my car and joined the group and when I looked up I saw a huge hole in the silo. It was about ten feet in diameter. Twisted pieces of iron stuck out from the edges of the hole and at our feet were small pieces of concrete and a lot of dust. During the night, a spark had ignited the very fine dust in the silo and an explosion ensued as the result of spontaneous combustion. I recalled doing such experiments in high school with some flour in a cardboard box but had no idea of the power that was latent in a swirl of powder and an untimely spark. No one was hurt in the blast and it was not too long before the hole was repaired and that things turned to normal.

I do not know of anything more common and perhaps mundane than dust. We move it or brush it from one place to another and dispose of it as best we can. As tiny as it is and as innocuous as it may look, dust can wreak havoc on any fine instrument – be it a camera, a computer or the human lung. And, in the scenario of the damaged silo, a tiny spark can wreak havoc when it hits a cloud of dust.

Small things can have enormous ramifications. Negatively, a word of gossip or slander can cause a gaping hole in any human life. Rumors can, like do much dust, fill the air and an insensitive comment is all that is needed to blast away one’s good name. On a more positive note, human kindness swirls around us like so many flecks of gold. Without the meaning that faith provides for human life, the deeds are yet good, as good as gold. But with the spark of faith, life bursts with a sense of purpose that is as healing as it is spontaneous. Faith can blow wide open a window to our world. We see things and people differently. And we surely see the seemingly small in the light afforded through the window of faith.

Life admittedly can wear us down. Our lives can border on the tedious, the mundane, and the achingly routine.

I must have passed that long ago silo hundreds of times. I never saw the dust and had no idea what power it possessed. I have lived hundreds and hundreds of days since my youth, and have seen ordinary lives transformed though the gift of faith. It was as if some people sensed the gold in their lives and asked God for a match. The gold was always there, swirling away in all those ordinary days, and then it caught fire. It was beautiful.

Now that I think about it, people did take notice, and maybe some of them looked heavenward, asking for a light. .