Each spring there are many people who grow pumpkins for pies and carving… and even hurling! And then there are those individuals who thrive on the challenge of raising Giant Pumpkins to enter into competition. And by “giant” I don’t mean maybe 50 pounds! When growing a strain of the Giants, during peak growing season the pumpkin can grow by 50 pounds a day! The 2009 champion was grown by Tim Mathison and weighed in at 2032 pounds! Now that’s a lot of pies! One year a woman was growing a Giant for competition and as Spring grew into Summer things looked very hopeful and she was sure that she had a possible Champion on her hands… until a mouse chewed its way into the pumpkin, killing it. Now someone with less enthusiasm would have given up and perhaps gone back to growing summer tomatoes, but not this woman! Next year she surrounded her competition pumpkin with 3 concentric rings of baited mousetraps, 150 in all; this trick worked and every year since she does this, referring to it as “The Ring of Death!”
I admire not only her pumpkins, but most especially the enthusiasm that she lets energize her each year! As kids enthusiasm just seemed to be a natural characteristic of life for us as everything is still to be discovered. Remember the obsessive interests that seemed to consume us each summer, which caused us to plot and plan and sweat? Where did that go? As adults we have learned that whatever we want is going to cost us something, and for some this knowledge has tempered the degree of enthusiasm that we will allow to get going, watching for when that spark might jump the line and turn into the brush fire that could burn down the regularized comfort of our adult life. When we were kids we were willing to lose control. As adults we have learned to fear where that loss of control might take us! As we age far too many of us become less and less willing to risk and we live our lives as if we are prisoners with life-sentences, simply “doing time.” When did we learn to be so afraid of our enthusiasm?
As adults, how many times do we use any degree of adversity as an excuse to give up on something: to our relief, the party which we didn’t really want to go to gets canceled due to a blizzard… we let go of the hobby whose growing complexity eats up more and more of our time and focus… we begin to chaff in a relationship which feels increasingly restrictive because we don’t want the depth of it that the other person wants. As adults, we seem to have grown into thinking of enthusiasm as optional! Yes, adult life can be difficult, but enthusiasm is a fire that only we can stoke ourselves… or it goes out! By not deliberately working each day to be enthusiastic about something we slowly lose the ability to be enthusiastic about anything!
Look at the example of the growers of giant pumpkins. These pumpkins are just too big to sit on the front porch, too big to carve in any kind of reasonable time, and would produce more pies than could possibly be eaten in a year! So why do they do it? They do it because their enthusiasm will not take a backseat to inconvenience. The question that the Giant Pumpkin growers poses to us is, “Have we become ensnared in the mediocrity of being too comfortable? Have we fallen for our culture’s lie that we should never be inconvenienced and that our lives… like our food… should be at no cost to us?”