King: Yays and High Fives

Oct 22, 2018 by

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Sometimes it takes someone who is 2 (“and a half,” she stresses) to lead the way.

Michael A. King


For 40 years, starting in our 20s, weeks after the arrival of our first daughter, our family has spent summer retreat time in Maine. There we learned, at least temporarily, to give up TV, to read and read, to talk and talk, to walk the beach from sunrise to sunset and into moonrise. We savored the clear cool days we called “Maine days,” ocean so frigid you were brave to dip toes in, nights requiring at least sweatshirts. Sometimes we’d start a fire.

Now no fire for ages. Fewer sweatshirt times. And ever more days of people swarming not only up to the water’s edge but way in, the once-rare head of the hardy soul now almost too many for lifeguards to count.

Then this year: forecasters warned the jet stream would sweep tropical air up the East Coast for weeks. They were right. Clouds that looked like they started in the Caribbean (as they often had), in humid air to match, scudded on winds blowing atypically from the southeast. But oh! In Maine there would be Maine days.

With just the right twist of breeze and sunshine there was an occasional Maine minute or hour. But days? No. Especially not nights. Historically summer nights have often fallen into the 50s, even 40s. So air conditioners are rare. This year fans blowing gales across sweating bodies were no match for nights often stuck in humid 70s.

Meanwhile, the usual sweltering news blew in from everywhere, not least Washington, D.C.

In the middle of this we were monitoring our granddaughter at the beach as she sent that body aged precisely 2.5 years down to the waves but not quite in.

She flirted. She flirted some more. Finally: toe touched wave.

She raced back, hand high. “High Five, PawPaw! High Five, Grandma!” She liked our responses.

Back to the waves. Inches deeper. Race back. High Five. High Five. Two High Fives!

Again. A whole foot or two in. Back. More High Fives and Two High Fives than the world has ever known.

“Now say Yay, PawPaw! Say Yay, Grandma! Say Yay again. And again say Yay. And again. Again!” Then with a cut-it-out wave of both hands across chest: “No more Yay.” Start over.

The day and the news still sweltered. Yet hope had breezed in.

After Maine, Joan went back to consulting with organizations striving to provide behavioral health care amid economic, political and sociocultural thunderstorms. Often resourc­es for health-care versions of air conditioners are inadequate. Now what?

Joan tells the story of a girl, 2.5 years old, who teaches us how to say High Five and Two High Fives and Yay. Together she and the organizations look for the path. And often enough, toward the end of the day, as spirits sag and hope flags, someone will point out that this is going well, that this holds promise. Someone else initiates a call-and-response High Five. And Yay. Things perk up.

Sometimes even our ability to draw nurture from Scripture seems compromised as every study or sermon or text going this direction is challenged from another direction. But one Scripture seems right now to shout out its treasures as, to paraphrase Isaiah 11:6, amid the warring animals and people, “a little child shall lead them” in offering the Yays and High Fives.

Michael A. King is publisher of Cas­cadia Publishing House and blogs at He wrote this column in consultation with Joan K. King.

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