Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Wednesday Wisdom: The Joyous Gift of GIVING Service


I wrote the first part of this article six years ago, not realizing that the essence of this account would over time become my own story.

* * * * *

We were rushing down a narrow country road on a sunny Sunday morning. Marcie had taken longer to get ready than usual, and with her arthritis, she required a little extra time to get to the car. I was intent on making up the time as we headed to church.

In Central Florida we often must slow down to accommodate our senior citizens. But when an old timer stepped onto the highway to cross the road directly ahead of us that morning, it irritated me.

His grey suit was rather worn and tattered and his gait was a bit stiff, but he held his head high. His air of authority left me no choice but to hit the brakes.  

"I wish this old fellow realized we're in a hurry," I blurted.  

"Honey, just be patient," Marcie counseled.

He walked across the first lane, then halted squarely in the middle of the road, fully erect. A car from the other direction was also forced to stop.  

"The nerve of this character!" I said. "He acts like he owns the place. Now he's got the whole road blocked."

He looked back over his shoulder. Our gaze followed his to see his partner was a few yards behind him, limping slowly and walking with great effort.  

"Look, he's stopping traffic so she can cross safely," my wife observed. "What a sweet, caring gentleman."

Looking more closely, we discovered why she was hobbling: she had no foot on her right leg, just a stump. "Oh my gracious!" I exclaimed. "She's walking on a stump!"

It took several minutes for her to pass in front of us. Only when she was safely beyond the roadway did her partner leave his post in the middle of the road. Then they slowly continued on their way, side by side.  

Watching them together, my impatience dissipated and my heart melted at this amazing example of devotion and commitment.  

Now let me share with you the rest of the story.


The venerable old gentleman was a sand hill crane. Around here, we see these birds frequently and virtually always in pairs.

That's because sand hill cranes mate for life. They are fiercely protective of their partners. They care for each other even when their coats are not as shiny and their bodies not as sleek as they once were. They do not abandon companionships that become dated or difficult or inconvenient. They remain loyal to the end.  

This gentleman's example of commitment and compassion and selflessness is one that all of us would do well to emulate. In our culture of throwaway relationships, it's reassuring to be reminded by so-called "lesser" species that, even through thick and thin, marriages can last a lifetime - perhaps an eternity.

* * * * *

That was six years ago. Now, my dear sweet eternal companion Marcie is herself "mobility challenged" and needs a walker or a wheelchair to get around. Due to the arthritis in her shoulders, she can't power her own wheelchair and usually needs someone to push it for her. Most of the time, that person is me.


But please don't think I am complaining. To the contrary; helping my wife get around is not a chore or a burden - it is a joy. I love being with her; she's such an upbeat and delightful person. And like my old friend the sand hill crane, I take great pleasure in seeing to my companion's safety, comfort, and mobility.  

Service, I have found, is its own reward. Nothing brightens my day more than looking for ways to help another. Nothing minimizes my petty problems than finding ways to help someone else deal with their own difficulties.

Thus, if you're looking for the perfect holiday present for yourself this year, give yourself the gift of GIVING service. Forget about your own concerns and troubles, stop worrying about what's under the tree for you, and throw yourself whole-heartedly into helping those around you. I promise you exceptional happiness.

Sometimes service comes with tons of fringe benefits. One of the gifts I am giving myself this Christmas season is to be Marcie's escort and chauffeur at all the holiday parties. That includes the women's gatherings, to which I would normally not be invited. It turns out that those ladies sure know how to cook!!! Plus I get to spend a little extra time with my sweet Marcie.


Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Wednesday Wisdom: Farnsworth's First Law of Life, Leadership, and Leftovers


It's Not the Thanksgiving Dinner, but the Things That Are Left Over That Matter Most



I.  GOOD: As we celebrate Thanksgiving this week, it is important for us 21st Century Americans to recognize how incredibly blessed we are. Virtually no one in the history of the world or on any other place on the planet has as much as we do.

The average American today lives a far more luxurious life than the wealthiest monarch in centuries past. The scraps from our Thanksgiving tables would be an absolute feast for half the people in the world today.

I have found that enjoying and appreciating abundance creates greater abundance. "Gratitude is the open door to abundance," said Yogi Bhajan, and Dr. Cathy Phillips has written that "gratitude will open your heart as well."  

As we acknowledge how blessed we are and we express gratitude for our blessings, we will discover greater joy and contentment left over from Thanksgiving this year.

II.  BETTER: One of the dangers of our unprecedented material wealth is that it may blind us to the real abundance in our lives.  

St. Luke warns: "A man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth." Too much "stuff" can get in the way of seeing and enjoying greater treasures.

According to Michael Beckwith:

There is a lie that acts like a virus within the mind of humanity. And that lie is, "There's not enough good to go around. There's lack and there's limitation and there's just not enough." The truth is that there's more than enough good to go around. There are more than enough creative ideas. There is more than enough power. There is more than enough love. There's more than enough joy. There is enough for everyone.  

There are no quotas or limits to the things that matter most in life. My joy and happiness do not take away from yours, and your joy and happiness do not take away from mine.

My peace and contentment do not diminish yours, nor do yours diminish mine. Whatever wisdom and understanding either of us has does not limit the other's.   
When we are able to see beyond physical possessions, we recognize that our abundance is potentially infinite and immeasurable. When we pay attention to things that matter more than money and property, we stop comparing and start enjoying what we have.

Hopefully our Thanksgiving "leftovers" this year will include a deeper awareness of the incomparable value of our nonmaterial wealth.

III.  BEST: The best way to think about abundance is to abandon any notion of having abundance and to focus instead on giving abundantly.  

Something incredibly wonderful happens when the key question of our life shifts from "How much can I get?" or "How much do I have?" to "How much can I give?"

When our lust for accumulation gives way to a yearning to share our abundance, we are not content with blessing our family alone, but we become anxious to bless the entire human race.

Something even more powerful happens when we recognize that the most important things we have to give are not the things we own, but a part of who we are. "Rings and other jewels are not gifts, but apologies for gifts," said Ralph Waldo Emerson. "The only gift is a portion of thyself."

This insight allows us to see that everyone can be an abundant giver and that "no one need wait a single moment to improve the world." Anne Frank.

Here are some of those portion-of-thyself gifts that we can all give more abundantly, regardless of our financial station in life:
  • Our time
  • Our attention
  • Our kindness
  • Our forgiveness
  • Our knowledge
  • Our wisdom
  • Our understanding
  • Our stories
  • Our cheerful attitude
  • Our encouragement
  • Our appreciation
  • Our questions
  • Our faith
  • Our courage
  • Our example
  • Our music
  • Our creativity
  • Our tenacity
  • Our sense of humor
This list could go on and on. There is no end to the ways we can be a blessing in others' lives.  

As we give abundantly of ourselves, in a miraculous way what we give comes back to us, multiplied. "Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into you." Luke 6: 38
This I have found to be true: When we focus on being a blessing to others, God makes sure that we are blessed in abundance, especially with riches far more valuable than anything tangible or financial.  

This year, I pray that we may focus more on the "GIVING" part of Thanksgiving, especially on giving of ourselves. As we do, I believe added joy, peace, and contentment will be among our Thanksgiving leftovers.

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Wednesday Wisdom: Farnsworth's First Law of Life, Leadership, and Cranberry Sauce


Add Zest to Life, Whatever Your Role   

In a few weeks as we sit down to a bounteous Thanksgiving dinner, we'll be ooh-ing and aah-ing over a beautifully roasted turkey or tasty ham. There will be a special dressing on the table, creamy mashed potatoes (or maybe sweet potatoes if you're from the South) and perhaps a casserole or two. We'll be saving room for some spicy pumpkin pie, a tangy apple pie, or other traditional desserts.  

But as we feast, we mustn't overlook the lesson of the cranberry sauce.

On most Thanksgiving menus, cranberry sauce is not the star of the show. It's not the highlight of the dessert course. It's a humble bit player, barely more than an extra. But that doesn't stop it from being zesty and colorful. What would Thanksgiving dinner be without the tangy, vibrant cranberry?

Life is like that sometimes. We don't always get to be the belle of the ball. Our name isn't always up in lights. But that doesn't mean we can't make a difference and find fulfillment in so-called "lesser" roles.

The trajectory of history is often cyclical. As the wheel of life turns, sometimes we're up and sometimes we're down. So what? We can choose to give our best regardless of our supposed elevation.

When geese migrate in formation, they rotate positions frequently. They seem to understand that the flock can travel farther and faster when different birds take turns flying at the point of the V and the one who was in front falls back into the group.

"Whate'er thou art, act well thy part" was the personal creed of David O. McKay, a noted American educator and church leader in the mid-20th century. He understood that how we serve is more important than where we serve, and that, as Paul wrote to the Corinthians, the body hath need of every member.

This Thanksgiving season, let's relish the "cranberry sauce moments" of our own lives. We may not be the main dish this time, but we can make the most of even a seemingly modest role.  

Let's be thankful for those whose thoughtful service spices up our world and makes it colorful and vibrant.  

Let's appreciate those small and simple acts of kindness that add zest and sweetness to our lives. We need each one to make the feast of life complete.