Take Yer Shuuuuz Awf                                                                                                    Dave Smith

Freshman orientation at UW-Whitewater included a lot of down time during that week of adjusting to “freedom.”  I intended to walk on for basketball tryouts so I made the short trek from my room in Lee Hall to the new Williams Center across a “far bigger than the old hay field” parking lot.  I was not the only curious and new college student going to and heading from that location.  I entwined with more kids in one minute than my high school had in its entire enrollment.  Inside the center, I poked into a few doors that opened into practice gyms bigger than the ones in which I played for so many years.  The D-III competition gym proved awe-inspiring.  My small-town eyes beheld what, for me, was the “big time” if I could make the team.  This surprisingly empty expanse intimidated a bit as I stepped onto floor, a floor I planned to make home for the winter practices and games.  Suddenly, “Take yer shuuuuz awf!” echoed an alarm.  In my red-faced-little-town-what-in-the-world timidity, more commonly called a wet your pants moment, I did a freeze frame.

“Sorry sir, I didn’t…”

“Nobody’s mad, jest take yer shuuuuz awf.  Then have yer look about.”  I had no clue from where this god-like voice came.  “Can I hep ya find somthin?”  And there he stood, sans a burning bush or huge cloud.  So I met the elderly gym manager in charge of keeping outdoor shod feet off his new gym floor.  No wonder the place was empty!  Probably scared the bejesus out every new pilgrim entering the university that dared come this way.

“Yea.  Is the frosh basketball coach around and where are the locker rooms?”  Thus began the most enjoyable first year of college – I got pretty used to the chiding shuuuuz removal banter that became our freshmen team’s daily chant to calisthenics.  To this very day I have no idea where that gentleman hid/stood/watched to echo his mighty call to careless strangers entering his kingdom.

I think today’s rain-dismal day brings the think.  So many walks to the Center over my four years there – only one as a team member, the rest as a totally involved intramural athlete.  I drive off to the eye doc in East Troy with a mind-filled memory bath of “man, those days…”  Earlier last week Fred Holtz dropped by and immediately removed his shoes to avoid a snow-slush track to the kitchen table.  That likely started this chainstream reminisce.  In that second, I immediately heard “shuuuuz off” and nearly laughed.  Fred would have thought that a tad strange I think.  Rain splats away in wiper blade battle as the radio professes flood watches for various counties that include Walworth and Waukesha.  Yes, February and mother nature can’t figure out what she wants.  Pastor Jake comes to mind, his barefoot commitment to sacred ground a cornerstone for his preaching.  I can’t help but stir up all the reactions – astonished-‘so unsanitary’-‘he’s not wearing shoes’!-‘that’s different’-‘well I never’-‘that’s pretty cool’-‘interesting sacred ground idea’ – depending upon which pew to which I listened on a given Sunday.  I like a comment Pastor made last Sunday – “Sometimes we only see the water” in thinks about our troubles and what we imagine is the lack of an ark to save us.  She added, “God works in tension and differences” and in so doing, His guiding way becomes clear.  She quoted Richard Rohr as well, “Animosity and opposites together…to decipher the good.”

I think sometimes we need to “take ar shuuuz off” and wade into the water, learn to swim a little differently, a little stronger, certainly and confidently in faith and God will come forth.  He certainly can and will “hep us find somethin.”