September 8, 2018
RV’s are not hardy vehicles. At least, the insides of an RV are not hardy. In the short time we’ve owned ours, the front a/c has not worked properly, the water tank leaks somewhere but no one can find where, an air vent cover has popped off, the toilet paper holder has come off the wall several times, the toilet itself has become loosened from its base, one of the front window night/privacy shades broke, the other window coverings frequently get off-kilter on their little pulleys, the screws that hold the kitchen table leg into the ground have come loose, the hinges on the storage compartment under our bed broke, and sawdust is, inexplicably, constantly blowing out of the air vents. Sometimes our bathroom door closes and locks just fine, but sometimes it won’t quite close at all, depending on who knows what.
We love our RV! I’m not joking when I say that. It provides us with so many fun memories and a great many comforts, but “hardy” is not the word I would use to describe it.
There’s a couple of reasons for this. For one thing, the interior of our RV is made from relatively flimsy materials. They are lightweight (which is good) and they look nice (also good), but we’re not dealing with oak cabinets, granite counters, and venetian blinds here. (I don’t watch HGTV — does that description conjure up images of a comfortable, luxurious home? Please say yes.)
In addition to being made from flimsy materials, we also subject our RV to a fair amount of wear and tear. The roads are bumpy, and we have four kids — all boys — who are not always gentle. Like a sand castle getting crashed by the waves, or Eeyore’s house of sticks on a very blustery day, our RV is crying uncle. If you expose something that’s already not very strong to enough stress, that stress is going to take a toll.
On this toll-taking trip that we’re on, we visited my friend Christina and her family in Kansas. (And incidentally, we rode the toll-roads in Kansas, which are lovely.) Christina and her family live on a beautiful, tree-covered three acres, and they own twelve chickens, six bee hives, and a vegetable garden, all of which provide them with lots of delicious and healthy food. While we were there we got to go out in the yard with Christina, her husband Matt, and their five kids, and we “helped” them tend to the chickens and garden, thus proving what city slickers we Watsons truly are. I cringed away from spiders, refused to hold a toad, and watched in awe while my friend moved around the yard with a calm and knowledgeable ease.
When we were picking bell peppers, she said that they are one vegetable that does okay when deprived of water. “In fact,” she said, “they get even spicier and hardier when they’ve had to struggle. Isn’t that cool?” That IS cool. It’s so cool, it makes me want to be like a bell pepper. I don’t want difficulties to take an undue toll on me. I want to get spicier and hardier.
You see, there’s a fundamental difference between RV’s and bell peppers. Well, there’s probably more than one fundamental difference between them. There’s definitely more than one fundamental difference. Bell peppers are living and RV’s are not. RV’s weigh well over 10,000 pounds and a bell pepper weighs a few ounces. People go inside an RV, but bell peppers get eaten and go inside people. Bell peppers are green, and RV’s are….usually not green. Yes yes, but none of those things are to the point, and the POINT is: the more we beat up our RV, the more beat up it gets. But if you try to beat up a bell pepper, it gets better.
Confession: Doing school on the road is honestly not my favorite. Some people love homeschooling, but I’m not one of them. Over the years we’ve done a couple of homeschooling stints, but I don’t take much joy in it. I take joy in the freedoms and opportunities that it provides. I take joy in the fact that we get to do this amazing trip thanks to homeschooling. I take joy in the knowledge that the extra investment of time is providing good things for my kids. But the actual schooling is often frustrating, especially on an RV. Talking above the noise of the RV is hard, typing or writing anything at all while bumping along is hard, time management is hard, keeping everyone’s attitude positive is hard, keeping Will happy (or even just un-tantrum-y) is hardest of all. It’s making me a little short-tempered and edgy.
But wouldn’t it be nice if it made me hardy? And maybe a little spicy? Then people would say “Elisa, what are your secrets to achieving such hardiness and spiciness?” and I would say “Oh, you know, I homeschooled in an RV for a couple months, and sometimes it sucked. But I learned the lesson of the bell pepper, and by the end we were all better and stronger.”
We’re still at the beginning of our trip, and it’s probably a good time for me to ask myself: Am I going to be like our RV, and come apart at the seams with every bump and rattle? Or am I going to be like a bell pepper and get a little stronger and more flavorful if things get tough?
Obviously my answer is the bell pepper. Please, oh please, let me be like the bell pepper. In the simple and ordinary things of life, as in my faith, I want to “count it all joy when I encounter trials, knowing that testing produces steadfastness” (James 1:2-3 paraphrased). But when you see me in six weeks, look to see what I resemble, and let me know if I seem hardy and steadfast…or more like I’ve got a few screws loose.