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Howard Rittenhouse

Padre (Maj) Howard Rittenhouse

Before I joined the CAF, I was a humble country parson back in Ontario.  We lived among the hills and green fields of Grey County north of Toronto (dairy farms, beef operations, cash cropping) in the church-owned house next to the church.  It had a large lawn, and it would often get ahead of me.

One day, I went out to cut the lawn and the mower wouldn’t start – the battery was shot, not just flat, but dead.  I said a few words over it (not very polite ones, I’m afraid), stomped back to the house and called a small engine mechanic.  No answer.  Typical.

It was my day off and I’d planned to spend a good chunk of it dealing with the hay field that was my lawn.  Now what?  Then a reluctant thought entered my brain.  Or rather, the thought wasn’t the least reluctant.  In fact, it was positively rude, elbowing its way into my consciousness like a bully pushing his way to the head of the line.  I was reluctant to entertain it because it meant several hours of drudgery: cleaning the basement.

After punching me in the stomach and taking my lunch money, the thought hadn’t gone away.  Sigh – so I slouched down the stairs to the cobwebbed clutter.

Will Rogers, that paragon of American wit and wisdom, once said, “What the country needs is dirtier fingernails and cleaner minds.”  So, I got my hands dirty and not only cleaned out the basement but my mind as well!

It’s truly amazing what a bit of housecleaning does for you!  Getting down to work, methodically cleaning from one side of the room to the other, and top to bottom, is actually quite therapeutic.

Taking up a broom, I began twirling up all the cobwebs, like cotton candy at a carnival.  The basement – damp, dark, and cluttered – was home to quite a few spiders.  Generations had lived and died leaving their genealogies on their ‘websites.’  Sweeping them away made a world of difference!  It only encouraged me.

Moving on to the shelves, I sorted through old paint, caulking, odds and ends: piled among the bits of lumber were two hard-as-Canadian-Shield-granite bags of cement (unopened, and unusable).  Hiding in the corner behind the hot water heater, trying to be as unobtrusive as an aviator arriving last to the COs briefing, was a car starter.

After running the vacuum into the corners, across the ceiling, and into the crannies chasing errant arachnids attempting to escape the Great Cleaning, I surveyed what was left: the starter, the cement, a few bits and bobs, and a screeching, screaming dehumidifier now surplus to needs.

Cowering before my gaze, they knew they were for it: it was time for a dump run!

Like Will Rogers said, every once in a while, we need to give our minds and lives a good cleaning (some of us more frequently than others), and cart stuff off to the dump like an old mattress: old habits and thought patterns, self-centred perspectives, the flotsam and jetsam of a life lived in a culture that’s not always very healthy – time for the dump!

Maybe it’s time to throw out some of those ratty old things.  Maybe it’s time to clean out the cobwebs and clutter in your life.

Maybe it’s time for a dump run.

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