As I write this article I am looking over at a rock on my desk with a large word in one inch lettering—it says simply—“REMEMBER”. The same type of rock was given out to a number of people I visited just before Easter. (Some Churches call these folks “Shut Ins.” I have never taken kindly to the expression, nor do I want to be called a “Shut In” someday when I am not able to get around.) So, I was thinking about the concept of Remembering and hoping that my experience of Easter celebration would stay very present in my memory—and I hope that my new paper weight REMEMBER ROCK could help me—especially since it was given to me at Easter.
Holding enriching memories is often a very important key to happiness and life perspective. I have a certain collection that is certainly more plenteous and in some ways more varied than the average women’s shoes collection. Sorry ladies, no offense intended. I collect hats. Among them are a few straw hats, some great handcrafted genuine rawhide hats I obtained in Mexico, and many baseball caps that I’ve collected for years. Just as some people collect postcards, pictures, or souvenirs from various places they have traveled. I collect hats. And hats are my version of the postcards and the various landmarks of my life. For me hats are for more than keeping the sun out of my face, or off of a balding scalp, or keeping my hair (what little I have) dry in the rain. A hat, for me, does more than impart a certain style, which is something I desperately need. A hat is something I buy and in fact wear when I want to remember a significant place or experience in my travels.
Since I have had opportunities over the years to both travel, work, and live in a variety of places—naturally I have collected many hats—over 100 of them. Like I said it’s my way of remembering and honoring the places and chapters of life I have experienced. Since moving to Lancaster County I have purchased a few—two Barnstormers hats, a Hershey Bears hat, a John Deere tractor hat (Green and White). Additionally I have had a few hats given to me. I often tease Jesse C. about leaving his hats to me as a matter of his estate settlement one day. He has offered up a few—which are proudly displayed in my office.
For me hats are a wholesome way to remember and to cherish. I am not just being sentimental. One of my closest friends was a young man I met in 1985—I had the distinct honor of leading him to faith in Christ. We stayed in communications for 28 years through both good and difficult chapters. The last time I saw him he came to my home in Philadelphia and we took two days to ride motorcycles together on some scenic roads. When he left he forgot to take his beautiful leather western hat. I called to tell he had forgotten it—and there was a long pause over the phone—and he said “I want you to have it Zimmy.” I could barely believe my ears—he knew how I admired that hat. Less than a year later my dear friend Glenn died a tragic and sudden death. The other day I thought of him—and I dared to do what I have had not done since his death. I put on the hat—but before I did I looked at the underside of it and I noted the sweat stains that were left on that weathered old hat. At first I felt a twinge of guilt and discomfort—but then a I remembered those two days of riding and the great moments we had over the years—and I concluded that Glenn would want me to enjoy that old hat. In the wearing of it I felt I was in a mystical way honoring his memory. I was cherishing the goodness of our journey as friends. In a broader way wearing the hat became a symbolic expression of honoring the friendships that I have shared so freely with so many over these many years.
It occurred to me that I could have easily kept that hat up on a shelf or in a closet—avoiding it—not allowing my mind to reach for the memory it represented. But instead I chose to face my resistance—and honor the memory of my dear friend by wearing the hat. Trust me, I did not do this lightly or without struggle. I don’t pretend to understand what happened in an existential or theologically sense—all I can say is I COLLECT HATS. And what inspires me to collect them is understanding that the places, spaces, and seasons of my life are worthy of remembering. I have only one life—no one else lives it for me—it is my own unique and sacred journey. If collecting hats (on a Baptist Ministers budget) helps me honor and remember the indelible and pleasurable moments, it’s a small price to pay. May God richly bless my hats, and all the memories etched upon my feeble mind.