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A Nice Day

I don’t know anyone who hates a nice day.  At the most obvious level, a nice day usually refers to the weather.  Typically, it is warm and sunshiny.  In the part of the country I live, nice days can happen in the spring---at least the first nice days we identify.  Certainly there are many nice days in the summer.  And by summer standards, many of those “nice days” we claimed in the spring would not be true.  In the spring a nice day is likely declared if it reaches the 50-degree mark.  In the summer that might well be a lousy day!
Fall weather if often the favorite season for many folks.  Fall days sometimes are not as hot as the summer folks just survived.  And fall inevitably brings the colors that everyone enjoys.  I think people may enjoy the nice days of fall because we know we are sitting ducks for the impending weather that winter brings.  I am pretty aware of weather.  I attribute this to growing up on a farm, but I am not at all sure there is any correlation.
I do know growing up on a farm I learned to read the skies.  This was long before the Weather Channel and radar and all the technologies of our current age.  I might have caught some weather forecast on the early morning radio or read some newspaper projection, but I figured I had as much chance being right as those prognosticators.  I spent much of every day in the outside.  I was exposed to the weather and I learned to take whatever it was.  Of course, this did not mean if it were raining, I had to stand in the rain.
All this relates to my work now as a college professor.  I have not forgotten weather.  I am still pretty in tune with it.  My early morning walk to get coffee gives me a chance to sense how cold it is, the humidity, whether there are clouds, a full moon, etc.  I quickly know the direction from which the wind blows and what that usually portends.  Weather is like a hobby now.  It rarely affects what I do.  Classes are not cancelled if it rains! 
But rain does affect how students feel about things.  Crummy weather brings out the grumpiness in students and my colleagues alike.  Cold snowy weather compounds the growling.  Strong winds are a curse to hairstyles and umbrellas.  But somehow we march on.  And then comes a nice day.  If we are lucky, there is a string of nice days.  The grumpiness subsides.  I never heard anyone curse a nice day!
There is one predictable for nice days.  Students will arrive in the classroom and immediately and in unison beg, “Can we go outside today?”  Of course, they just came in from being outside and will go back outside when the class is finished.  What they mean, of course, is they want the class to meet outside.  The implication is they could finally enjoy the class if it were held outside!  I guess that makes class and bad weather a double whammy!
My usual response is not very satisfactory.  I tell them if we were to go outside, we would not mess that up by having class! That does not mean we could not have the class outside.  Everything we talk about in a class discussion could happen out there.  I am aware, many fewer notes would be taken.  I don’t use PowerPoint, so that would not be sacrificed.  So why do I care where we have class?
It is all a matter of attention and attentiveness.  I am pretty confident we cannot be attentive to more than one thing at a time.  We can be aware of more than one thing.  I can eat with a friend in a noisy restaurant.  I am aware of my friend and so much more.  But I am attentive to my friend.  The same goes with class.  For me it is either the material of the class or the nice day outside.  Both are important; the question is to what do I want to be attentive?  I figure a class lasts fifty minutes.  A nice day lasts---well a whole day.
A nice day is a gift of God, as I see it.  And in a way, my life, my brain and abilities are also gifts of God.  I don’t want to squander any of these gifts.  But some gifts require more effort.  Some gifts need to be developed.  That’s the difference.  Nice days are a pure gift.  Nothing I do develops the day.  I can’t concentrate and add a few degrees.  But my mind and that of the students can be cultivated and developed.  To do that effectively means staying inside.
But I always am willing to keep the surprise available.  Sometimes when I am met with the clamor to “go outside for class,” I reply that would be a waste of a nice day.  I suggest we throw aside the class for the day and actually go outside, be as attentive as we can and actually enjoy fully the gift of God.  Often this is harder than it sounds.  Many of us don’t even know how to do very well the nice days we are given.
Too often we are not really attentive.  I watch folks walking with minds focused on their cell phones in the midst of the nicest day we have had for weeks.  This leads to spiritual queries: if I am given a nice day, am I attentive enough actually to be aware appreciate it?  That is my spiritual work of the day.

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