If You Break It, You Own It

A bull is standing in the middle of some broken glass.
A t sign with an upside down letter

Sometimes I act like a bull that carries his own china shop around with him.  That was originally said by Winston Churchill about John Foster Dulles (Secretary of State under Ike).  If something is close to my elbow, it will sooner, or later, be knocked over.  If anything fragile is near my feet, ditto.  But, fortunately, I know my limitations and make an effort to be careful when things are close at hand.  If I’m in a shop with a lot of fragile things, I move slowly and deliberately.  I think it has a lot to do with the signs hanging everywhere that say, “If you break it, you own itâ€.  My first thought is I don’t own it until I pay for it, but I kinda know that wouldn’t be fair, so I move in slow motion.  Mostly, I try to avoid those places.  Tolkien sorta had it right when he said, “He who breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdomâ€.   The Lord knows I need to stay on the path of wisdom.

Shortly After Thanksgiving I decided it was time, since the grass has stopped growing, to remove the mowing deck on my riding mower (Big Red) and install my snow plow on it.  The last few years we have received plowable snow, and I use my tractor to clear our driveway, as well as many of our neighbors.  It (changing decks) is not a difficult task and requires only a couple of hours to complete, but I got started a little late in the day and before I could complete the job darkness had descended.  For some reason, I have always wanted to be finished with whatever I was doing by dark.  So, I start scurrying around trying to get done, using a flashlight procured from the garage.  Now, as I’ve gotten older, I have learned that scurrying is not good.  Something is going to be done incorrectly, or not at all.  Sure enough a part was missing and things had to be disconnected to get it in its proper place.  Finally, my awesome plowing machine roared to life and the blade worked perfectly.  With a smile painted on my face, I drove around to the garage, raised the door, and parked it in the place reserved for “Big Redâ€.  As I dismounted and walked back to the shed to put back all the things I removed to retrieve the plow, I tried to figure a way to remember the “scurrying†lesson and apply it to future projects.  Alas, I’m certain that I will forget and find myself doing the same thing again. As Winston Churchill once said, “Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happenedâ€.  I prefer to think that most of us try to change and that Sir Winston is wrong.

Two close friends of ours invited us to a “Happy Hearts†luncheon a while back.  Their group, made up of members from their church, meet for lunch once a month and invite someone to speak, or entertain the group after the meal is finished.  Jerilyn and I arrived at the appointed time, but as most people know, old folks are always early and never late for things.  There was probably 50-60 people there, with 8 per table.  There was one seat left and Jerilyn took it, while the people at the table next to her made room for me to sit.  As we commenced to eat our salad, I noticed everyone at our table was silent.  Their church minister sat at my table and surely, I thought, he would get the conversation started.  After a few moments of awkward silence, I brought up a subject and a few things were said after I finished and then again silence.  I have known since I was a boy that a meal is always better with good conversation, and I have always known that each person at the table has to contribute to the conversation to make it an enjoyable experience.  So, I bring up another topic and elaborate on it somewhat and then wait for contributions from others.  Silence!  Then I had an “Aha†moment!  “You knowâ€, says I, “our church is struggling to meet its apportionment obligation this year.â€Â  All of a sudden the table was buzzing with conversation, the meal progressed nicely, and everyone enjoyed each other’s company.  Jerilyn & I left that luncheon full of good food and a warm heart because of all the good people we met.   

During our recent trip to Asheville, NC (to visit the Biltmore), we made friends with a nice couple (Larry & Sybille) and spent quite a bit of time with them during the trip.  We exchanged emails for a few weeks after returning home and after a while the exchange stopped.  I didn’t think a lot about it, those things happen when you don’t move in the same circle.  Then I received an email from my new friend, and he told me that his wife had a severe heart attack in late November and that, “I am very lucky to still have her, the first 2 days were the WORST OF MY LIFEâ€.  I was so saddened to hear that awful news.  The worrisome thing is that it can happen to any of us.  Our world can be turned upside down in a heartbeat and life, as we know it, can be forever altered.  I quit asking God why bad things happen to good people a long time ago.  He never answers that question.  I do feel comfortable in knowing that he will not put more on our plate then we can handle.  Kristin Chenoweth (actress/singer) said, “I have a magnet on my fridge that says:  Good morning, this is God.  You don’t need to be worrying about all your problems, I will be handling them todayâ€.  What a wonderful way to approach life.  I’d like to get Larry one of those magnets!

I keep a daily journal and have done so for many years.  Mostly, it is non-inspiring stuff, just a daily record of things that happen in my life, to me, and to others.  As I was making an entry the other day, a thought weaved itself thru my mind that Jesus never kept a record of things that happened in his life.  Everything I have read about Christ has been written by others.  Granted, the people that wrote about him were pretty important and very well qualified.  But nothing from Jesus!  I think it may have been because writing material wasn’t readily available.  So, I have tried to imagine what he would write and here are some of the entries I think he would have made:

+++ Today, Mother & Father were upset with me because I stayed behind in the temple with the elders and I’m only 12 years old.  They were gone a day before missing me and had to come back to Jerusalem to find me.  I love my parents and went with them obediently, yet I think they did not understand why I stayed.

+++I turned 30 today.  I am now at the legal age to be a teacher of man. My Father on earth has taught me how to make a living, and my Father in Heaven has taught me how to save a man’s soul. I can now be a public minister!

+++Today I fed more than five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish.  What a wonderful day!

+++Today I walked on water and everyone was amazed. How easy that was!  Now if I can only convince my disciples that they can do that to, if they would only believe.

+++I raised a man from the dead today.  I think his name was Lazarus.  I know my Heavenly Father is proud of me for the miracles I performed in his holy name.

+++My father in Heaven told me tonight that I must die for the sins of others.  I will do as he commands, but I do worry some about how it will happen.  My own people seem to have turned against me.  I know what I must do!

+++A Roman governor sentenced me to die on a cross today.  This will be my last entry in this journal, but it will not be the last time you hear from me.  End of Journal entries

I sincerely hope, and I believe, that none of my readers are offended by the liberties I have taken in this story.  I am, by no means, an expert on the Bible.  I have several readers of this missive that are Bible experts and it is they, I hope I have not offended.  Benjamin Disraeli said, “Never apologize for showing feeling.  When you do so, you apologize for truthâ€.   Since this story is based on my feelings, I guess no apology is needed (at least that is my hope).

Jerilyn and I turned in around 11:00 pm on New Year’s eve (In years past, we stayed up until midnight watching that big ball slowly descend into Times Square in New York), but the next day I was up by 7:00 am working thru my list of things to get done and the thought crossed my mind about why we celebrate the passing of time.  We celebrate birthdays & anniversaries, remember the days traumatic events occurred, and mark the passing of each hour (2 hours to quit time, bus arrives in 30 minutes, etc.).   I never owned a watch until I was 19 years old.  I don’t recall that any of my grandparents had a watch.  I know they had a clock because I can remember Grandpa Hale’s Big Ben clock setting on the table and making that irritating tick tock sound.  What made it sound so loud was there were no other sounds competing with it for our attention.   The earliest pocket watch was made in 1462 by the Italian Bartholomew Manfredi, so contrary to what my children think, watches were around when I was a child.  As a retiree, I have very little use for a watch.  If I want to find out how much time has gone by, all I have to do is look in the mirror.  Every day something changes about my face, and it is not pretty.  Somehow, I think my face reflects the passage of time better than any other medium.  The lines around the corner of my mouth appeared when I was 37.  The laugh lines around my eyes appeared in my mid-forties, and the sagging jowls made their grand appearance during my 60’s.  The, “you look like you could use more sleep†look took over my face by the time I reached my 70th birthday, and it refuses to be banished.  I wonder what’s next?  At our local “Seafood Fest†back in October, I had a fellow sketch me out in living color for $20.  As people walked by, they stopped to see how well the caricature artist was doing, and every time they looked at me they gave a thumbs up, and said something to the effect, “looks just like ya!â€Â  I have that sketch under the glass that covers my desktop.  I put it there specifically to keep the demons at bay while I’m asleep, or we’re out of town.  I’ve gotten to the point that if I walk our streets, I’ll scare the little children.  The guy he sketched out looks like an old Italian mobster that would whack you at the drop of a hat.  The picture of me at the end of this missive has been doctored, but I certainly didn’t think it was that radical.  When that picture was taken the lady said to me, “I can remove all the lines in your face for an extra $25!â€Â  “Hit that button†I responded, hence the younger looking me.  To sum up my thoughts on time, I guess old Abe said it best, “The best thing about the future is it comes one day at a timeâ€. 

On Christmas Eve, I visited some family members I haven’t seen in a long time.  I’m kinda ashamed of that fact.  My niece is getting her doctorate in Psychology in June, and I’m so proud of her.  She lives in Denver, but she comes home often, so I really have no excuse for not visiting her.  Her brother lives in the area, and I rarely see him.  Their mother and step-father live fairly close, and yes, I have failed to visit them also.   I have tried to figure out why I let that happen.  I love all four of those people and, somehow, they slipped under my radar as silently as a stealth plane.  I’ll bet if I talked to my, soon-to-be PHD niece, she could tell me why I let that happen.  Needless to say, I have been busy trying to figure out if there are other important people in my life that I have short-changed.  Some would say the street travels both ways, but I think that is too easy an answer.  I believe it is up to me to visit the people I care about.  My brother probably visited me 5 times in his adult life, and I tried to be at his home every couple of months.  I believe my brother loved me as much as I loved him, it’s just that visiting wasn’t high on his priority list.  Not one time since he passed away in 2008 have I wished that I had visited him more often.  The timing of our visits always seemed to be just about right, and they were always enjoyable.  What more could we have asked for (except more time).  So, no I don’t subscribe to the idea that people should take turns visiting each other.  If I had used that as a plan, I’m sure I would’ve had plenty of regrets about not visiting my brother.    Logan Pearsall Smith said, “Don’t tell your friends their social faults; they will cure the fault  and never forgive youâ€.   That could very well be true

Seems like we are bombarded with everyone telling us that our government is ruining our lives.  So I started thinking, what is it specifically the government could be doing that makes us so unhappy?  I certainly feel that I pay too much in taxes, but I adjusted to that many years ago and since I enjoy a lot of the services our governments (local, state, federal) provide, I am only concerned when they attempt to take more.  And truthfully, I don’t mind helping those less fortunate than Jerilyn & I.  I don’t want anyone telling my grand-daughters they cannot abort a pregnancy if they choose to do so.  I think that should be faith based.  Neither do I feel my government should subsidize an abortion, nor provide anything relating to birth control, other than sex education in schools.  But, for the most part, I go thru my day without any government intervention, matter of fact, I seldom spend any time thinking about my government and that is a good thing.  It means they, for the most part, stay out of my life and let me live it as I see fit.  I haven’t traveled all over the world, but I do read a lot, and I believe we live in the best country in the world.  I’m fully aware there are other good places to live but for me, it’s the good old US of A.  This is an election year and I do dread it, with all the negative advertising and the constant solicitation for money.  It is almost impossible to watch TV without being hammered by one party or the other, and my mail box always contains some type of political request.  I guess I sorta believe what Joseph Brodsky said, “I do not believe in political movements.  I believe in personal movement; that movement of the soul when a man who looks at himself is so ashamed that he tries to make some sort of change – within himself, not on the outside.â€Â 

Hope you’re enjoying whatever weather you’re having in your part of the world!  Thanks for reading my monthly missive.