Are You at Peace?

A peace sign drawn in the sand on the beach.

“Life is a gift, and it offers us the privilege, opportunity, and responsibility to give something back by becoming more.” – Anthony Robbins

I ran across that quote the other day and thought, what a wonderful approach to life.  The “becoming more†thing is, I think, not quite as easy as it felt at first blush.  I believe in giving back:  I served 4 years in the US Air Force, coached countless young people in recreational sports and donated a fair share of money to charity.  Still, I don’t think that is what is meant by “becoming moreâ€.  To me, I think the author means becoming a better person and that entails a lot; becoming a better husband, father, grandfather and friend.  The sad thing is that I have gotten to an age in life where I have accepted the fact that I am what I am and there is a very good possibility that I’m not going to change very much.  See, I think when you run across such a wonderful beatitude, it gives you pause to reflect on how much you come up short and, hopefully, try to change (“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth†Gospel of St. Matthew 5:3-10).   I have a sneaky suspicion that you only come to grips with the true meaning of life under extreme duress and few of us go there willingly.

Jerilyn and I are in the habit of putting toothpaste on each other’s toothbrush.   Whoever brushes first performs that task.  I am very liberal with the amount I put on the brush, she, however, is mighty stingy.  If I only used the amount of toothpaste she puts on, one family sized tube would last until I croak.  If everyone were like she, all toothpaste companies would go out of business and there would be no profits to be made. She is equally thrifty in other areas:  When we eat grapes for lunch, I get 15 grapes and she gets 15;  when we eat dinner she insures that we both have an equal amount of whatever she has prepared.  This is not a criticism, it’s just the way she is, and I would never attempt to change her.  The point to be made is that she believes that by portioning out these things everyone is treated equally, eats/uses the appropriate amounts and shares in the rewards.  I think we all need someone in our life that fills that role.  Yet, I do know people that would never want that to happen.  I’m guessing these are people with a lot of will power J.  

I read recently that in Korea people greet each other with the salutation “Are you at peace?â€.   I think that is a great greeting for those with whom you have a close relationship, but not very reasonable to use when saying “hi†to a stranger.  Probably, if I used it in greeting my friends, they would think I was nuts, so for that reason alone, I could never use that expression.  I still think it’s neat! 

Years ago I bought this bird thing that had water in one end and as you tilted it forward the water traveled up the neck towards its head, tilting it all the way forward and then as the water worked its way back to the base, it raised up and then started tilting forward again on its own.  One of many attempts by man to create a perpetual motion machine.    Of course, in a couple of days it would stop working because of water evaporation.  Being as inventive as I am, I tried over and over to come up with a way to make that thing work endlessly.  What I didn’t know then that I know now is there are problems in life that have no solution, or at least a solution that I can devise.   Knowing that allows me the luxury of accepting that I cannot resolve everyone’s problems.  It also allows me to accept that people in my life can work thru their problems and find an acceptable solution.  I just have to keep reminding myself of that.

I just finished reading a book by Denise Jackson, titled “All About Himâ€.   Denise is the wife of country music star Alan Jackson.  Alan wrote the song “Where Were You When The World Stood Stillâ€, about the disaster on September 11, 2001.  According to his wife, Alan slipped out of bed one night about two weeks after the tragedy, went down stairs and wrote the song, returning to bed a short while later.  Alan says “I didn’t write the song, I just held the penâ€.  I thought the book was about Alan, but as it turns out, it is Him (God) and how he can help us in life.  The book left me with a very good feeling about how believing in a higher power can help us.  I guess the real reason for buying the book was to get the “skinny†on what rich and powerful people do with their lives.  Their home outside Nashville is 25,000 square feet and Alan has a garage that holds 19 cars.  They are wealthy beyond comprehension, yet their life proceeded in a downward spiral, from happiness to misery, as they accumulated more.  This book reminds me of the quote, “Money can’t buy happinessâ€.   If you live close to me and would like to read the book, let me know.   I bought the book at Amazon (used) and it was shipped to my front door for the grand total of $5.  The book is well written and contains a lot about religion in Denise’s life.  So, if you aren’t at all into religion, it would be a long read for you. 

In 1954, Eddie Fisher recorded “Oh, My Pa Paâ€, and it went to #1 on the Billboard chart and stayed there for awhile.  Whenever I hear that song, my mind wonders back to a particular Sunday night during the winter of that year.  Dad and Cecil Artrup went to work that night to “rock dust†the face of the mines for the dayshift the next day.  The mine face is the wall of coal at the very end of the tunnel.  Rock dust minimizes the possibility of deadly methane gas so the miners will not have to worry about explosions.  Mom, Jerry (my brother), and I are at the Artrups playing card games, when in walks the mining superintendent Mr. Crigger (Uncle Claude’s dad).  The radio is blaring Eddie’s song Oh, My Pa Pa.  We all know something is wrong by the look on his face, but we don’t know if it involves one, or both men.   He informs us that Cecil died of an apparent  heart attack and that my father was lowering his body on the tram that takes the miners up and down the mountainside to work.  In addition to the terrifying news, Eddie continues to sing: “Oh, My Pa Pa, to me he was so wonderful, Oh, my pa-pa, to me he was so good, no one could be, so gentle and so lovable, Oh, my pa-pa, he always understood. Gone are the days when he could take me on his knee And with a smile he’d change my tears to laughter Oh, my pa-pa, so funny, so adorable, Always the clown so funny in his way Oh, my pa-pa, to me he was so wonderful Deep in my heart I miss him so todayâ€.   We were all in shock, and tears were everywhere.  At age 13, I guess I was just relieved that it wasn’t my father that died.  I went to sleep that night and my heart was filled with both sadness and terror.  From that point on, I knew that life held no guarantees.  The Artrups had to move in a month or so (the homes in the camp were reserved for active miners).    There were about 5 kids in the family and I lost track of them, but I heard much later that the family struggled and the boys got into trouble and at least one of them served some time in prison.  I wonder what would have happened to us if it had been my father instead Mr. Artrup.  Isn’t it strange, the things we remember?     

Recently I wrote Aunt Ruth Hale a letter telling her how important she was in my life of long ago, and how I had fond memories of her and Uncle Earl (Dad’s youngest brother who passed away several years ago).   A few days later I received a letter from her.  As I retrieved our mail from the mailbox, I saw the letter with her return address on it and my heart leaped with excitement!   I took the mail back into the garage and laid it down on the steps into the house and continued working on whatever project I was involved in.   I was intentionally delaying the opening of her letter.  I was a little concerned that she may have been disappointed that I had waited all these years to make contact with her.  I was hoping that her letter was sweet and responsive to my long overdue attempt to reconnect.  Unable to contain my enthusiasm, I went inside and opened her letter and these were the lines I read:  “Dearest Tommy, thank you so very much for your letter to me.  It was a surprise, a very wonderful surprise.  It brought back really fond memories, one especially of a day while I was in the hospital when Janie was born.  You and Jerry (my brother) were babysitting Mike (her oldest son) for me by riding him all over Page Camp in your wagon.  Earl (her husband) was taking care of him and you and Jerry wanted to helpâ€.   The letter continued with some information about the things she enjoyed doing and how she tried to bring happiness into the lives of others.  Oh, how I regret waiting so long to re-establish contact with her.  I am so glad she was able to look past my shortcomings and see my need to have her back in my life again.  This quote comes to mind:  “The greatest weakness of most humans is their hesitancy to tell others how much they love them while they’re still alive.” – O.A. Battista

To send a letter is a good way to go somewhere

without moving anything but your heart…..Phyllis Theroux