“The Time Has Come…” July 1990
by Rick Pearson (Executive Director, 1990-2010)
“‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said, ‘to speak of many things.’” This line from Lewis Carroll was quoted often by my mother when I was growing up. It usually meant that it was time for us to get going. I was quite old, ten at least, before I discovered that my mother had not made the line up herself.
However, I was reminded of the line recently because I was thinking about oysters. I am sure that you all see the connection, but just in case one or two of you have forgotten your Lewis Carroll poetry, the line is spoken by the Walrus to a beach full of fat and tired oysters. The Walrus and the Carpenter have invited all the oysters to leave their safe and secure oyster bed for a walk along the beach.
The motives of the Walrus and the Carpenter were less than pure, I am afraid. The oysters were being invited to dinner. Or rather, they were being invited to be dinner. As I said, this all came to mind because I was thinking about oysters. Now I don’t usually think much about oysters, but I heard a story. It was another story about a beach full of oysters.
It seems that an unusual tide had washed thousands of oysters up from their beds onto the beach.
Along this oyster-covered beach a man and his son were walking and talking. And as they walked, the son continually reached down and picked up oysters, one at a time, and tossed them back into the ocean. Finally the father asked, “Why are you doing that? With the thousands that litter this beach, what do the few that you are able to toss back matter?”
The son looked down at the oyster in his hand. “It matters to this one,” he said, and tossed it into the water.
It is easy to be overwhelmed by the scope of a problem. There are thousands of homeless people right here in Ventura County. There are thousands more who are living two and three families in a single house or apartment—living in constant fear that the landlord will find out and all of them will be evicted. There are thousands only one or two missed paychecks from being on the street.
In the midst of all of this suffering, Project Understanding has had a pretty good year. We have helped some 38 families—more than 100 people—get started in housing. One hundred out of thousands.
Why bother? What difference does it make? It matters to the hundred. And it matters to us. And it matters to God.
In the Lewis Carroll poem, the Walrus and the Carpenter, for their own selfish purposes, lured the oysters out of the water. And in the story, the father could survey vast suffering and be too overwhelmed to respond. But the son saw a need and did what he could. Which ought we to emulate?
“‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said….” My mother was right. It’s time to get going.
(Reprinted from pages 29-30, Rheto-Rick-ally Speaking: Celebrating 30 Years of Service by Project Understanding, by Rick Pearson. Rev. Pearson is currently the pastor at North Oxnard United Methodist Church.)