Yesterday (9/20/2016) my Mom called to tell me that my Dad had died. He went for a walk on a California morning by himself and never came home. Somewhere along the way he collapsed on the trail. This morning, in the midst of trying to figure out logistics and next moves, I wanted to write something about my Dad, David Evans.
My Dad taught me a lot about paying attention to little things. He was an entomologist and Biology professor. I remember for a time the floor space at his lab at Kalamazoo College was taken up by a children’s swimming pool filled with sand, home to a colony of velvet ants (wingless wasps). We used to go searching for them on the sand flats outside of Kalamazoo. It was all about watching and paying attention to things that most of the time we walked by without noticing.
My Dad taught me that our brains are a gift. It is all right to learn things for the sake of learning them. It is all right to question and look at things from a different perspective. This is probably the reason that as a pastor I have little or no patience for literalism, nor for versions of Christianity that can’t deal with scientific inquiry. For the church folk who might read this, using our brains is just good stewardship.
My Dad taught me that gentleness is simply better. On his sabbatical year in Sierra Leone, he used to take naps during the heat of the afternoon. One day the neighborhood children were playing outside his house. “Go away or I will bop you, “ my Dad shouted out the window. This was a common threat in the village. The children continued to play so he went into the kitchen and grabbed a wooden spoon. He went out to the front porch and said again, “Go away or I will bop you.” According to my Dad, the children looked at him, half-awake and brandishing a mixing spoon, and began to laugh saying, “Bop me first, Dr. Evans. Bop me first,” at which point they all laughed together.
My Dad taught me that humor is important and the pursuit of good humor is a fine way to spend some time. He was the one who took me to see The Three Amigos at the theater and to this day I cannot hear the words “infamous” or “plethora” in the same way. He was the one who introduced me to Monty Python, Black Adder, and the Two Ronnies. He was the professor who was invited to dedicate the new condom machine at the dorms. His sense of humor embraced the silly and the sardonic.
I am grateful to my Dad for all that he taught me. I am saddened by his loss but grateful that he did not have to experience a long decline, which I think he would have hated. Whatever comes next, I hope that I can honor him by passing the gifts of curiosity, gentleness and humor to my children and the people around me.