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Ruminations on Mr. Wilson

See, the show was called Dennis the Menace, but I always remembered it as Mister Wilson`s show.  Mister Wilson was the character I most identified with, even at my fresh age of 6. Dennis was this little guy next-door, who just showed interest in the life of his elderly neighbor- perhaps a mix of boredom and curiosity- in an amount just over the line of obsessive. In true sitcom fashion, he was always causing something to break or come to ruin, putting Mr. Wilsons nerves into a tailspin..every episode. At some point, I clearly recall feeling true concern for Mr. Wilsons mental well-being…yeah, they say I was a little precocious.

In any case, I still side with Senor Wilson. I mean, where the heck were Dennis` parents and why did they allow him to terrorize the neighborhood with his MISTERRR. WILSONNNNNN?!


I have come to realize, however, that Mister Wilson could have been more welcoming and patient with the little ragamuffin.  Every now and then, you would sense that maybe he enjoyed Dennis, even if just a pinch. Usually, I was hoping the next episode would revolve around the Wilsons moving to the other side of town or that Dennis` character would grow up, have some type of arc or denouement. Truly, either of them could have adjusted their attitudes to see the potential for mutual benefit in their friendship, but they never could get there. I couldnt really ever tell if he loved Dennis the most, hated him the most…or both (Sorry, Portlanders–but it fit).

These ruminations have floated to surface because I now frequently find myself in the same situation as Mister Wilson, with my own special version(s) of Dennis (although here its more like Denisia). Suffice it to say that I am really trying hard to learn from the mistakes of this flawed hero from my childhood. (Sammis hero–Mr. Clean–had no observable flaws to speak of) :)

The establishment of boundaries is very culture-based (societal), but it is also individual–dependent on personality and personal experience. I am learning to navigate around and through these deeply-seated impositions, in order to grow myself and to cultivate growth in others. But it is not at all a smooth practice–to go against what is comfortable, in any area. Becoming flexible and open to others, whether it means adjusting schedules at a moments notice, opening your home or offering over precious Crystal Light packets, requires a deliberate suspension of natural inclinations and a willingness to shift priorities…but why would anyone choose to do this? Is seems hard.

Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  Phil.2:3-4

People like Dennis the Menace, who naturally grate on us, who assault our sensibilities, really help to point out the loci of unloveliness in our own hearts.

Jamaican life is, for me, rife with menace (person or thing that causes trouble or annoyance; something that is likely to cause harm; a threat or danger), more so than my life in the states. This is partly because many more aspects of daily life are out of my direct control. I find myself clinging to those few controllable things with tenacity–in order to feel safe.

Is SAFE an adjective you want stated during your eulogy? Jesse was always SAFE…

John Henry Newman wrote, To live is to change and to have lived well is to have changed often.

Brennan Manning writes in his The Importance of Being Foolish:
(quick shout-out! Cara & Dave Donahue–thanks for the book. I read it in 1.7 days and will do again!)

The church of Jesus Christ is a place of promise and possibility, of adventure and discovery, a community of love on the move, strangers and exiles in a foreign land en route to the heavenly Jerusalem.

At any given moment, arent we all prone to either extreme–a menace or a miser, trouble-maker or tightwad! We either go about slingshotting cultural bombs through our neighbors kitchen window or we keep our doors and windows closed so that no one will know we are even at home.

My focus has mostly been on Mister Wilson, because I tend to feel his pain (and inflexibility). However, Dennis should exercise some respect for his neighbors time, possessions and comfort level. He is a child, without a great deal of self-awareness…but how like most of us, even as (borderline) adults!

In Jamaica, social boundaries are easy to notice because they are quite different from my own. There are so many differences, but most are navigable (and amusing!) with some patience and pro-active inquiry.

I will end with questions I am asking myself lately–

How often do you count another person as more significant than yourself?
Are you part of the community of love on the move?
If you want to stay SAFE–Safe from what exactly? What is the danger/risk?

One Response

  1. i like reading your thoughts, jesse. you are always so REAL and so honest about your feelings and experiences. this entry reminds me of a quote i was just thinking of yesterday….. “To be great is to be misunderstood.” as long as i’m genuine and my intentions always good, i prefer that over safety any day.

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