I debated whether or not to put this post in with “The Early Days” because it is really an ongoing lesson for me. Once again, some back ground is in order. As a young man, I grew up in a very good home, two parents who loved each other and although they were not rich, we lacked for nothing. As with all young men, I became a teenager. I say became because it is a very scary process. You go from being an obedient young man to being all knowing, all powerful, all wise and far, far superior to older folks. You do really stupid things. One of my most stupid, and at the same time, unbeknown to me, one of my best, was to join the Army.
Time line is 1966. Vietnam War. Oh man, I can hardly wait to go off to defend my country. I’m going to show the world. I signed up to be a helicopter repair man, guaranteeing my end destination. Let’s just say that once “in country” my folks became a lot smarter that I ever remembered them. I began to realize I was a lot dumber than I thought.
Most of my experiences proved very painful lessons. But one shaped my life for years after. Poverty. I would exit the mess tent with my military issue steel tray and hand it to one of the many Vietnamese women who were there to clean the trays. One little catch. The way they cleaned the trays was to scrape the remains into smaller cartons of like material. This would then be taken back to the village and divided between their families. Poverty. I made a vow that I would never be poor. No matter what I had to do, I would never scrape garbage for my family.
Most of you know the “rest of the story”. I married and worked. Had three children and worked. Two jobs. But I was not poor. By the worlds standard I had it made. All the toys. Then my life fell apart and when I moved out of my home after twenty-five years, I had nothing but the clothes in my dresser. I slept on the floor of a cheap apartment.
Then I met Geri and started over. I had the same game plan as before and was headed down the same road. I hadn’t learned a thing. But I had a lesson coming, from Tony. He was a stumbling block for me. You see, all his earthly possessions fit into one small toy box, and if there was a fire, he could put everything that really mattered in both front pockets. That would be a whistle, a harmonica, and two tube of lip gloss. He is as excited to get socks for Christmas as any other gift. You could even re-wrap one of his toys and he was happy. All I could think of was bigger and better, Tony was happy with anything. He does not know greed, or lust for things. Now I have this problem. Tony. Every time I think of what I want next, he comes to mind. Every time my mind is off in a brochure for my next big thing, Tony gives me a hug. It’s as if he became a thorn in the flesh.
Over the past few weeks, our pastor has been working thru 1Timouthy 6:6 with us. It says “But godliness with contentment is great gain”. Tony understands this. He is as content to play the game as to win. In his first Special Olympics run, he was last. But he was in heaven! Both sides of the race way were lined with people who would shake his hand and hug him. We wanted him to run…he was happy to meet people. When he bowls, he cheers as much for a gutter ball as a strike. He has no stress, or worries. He will not die from high blood pressure or a heart attack.
The next verse in this chapter, 1Timouthy 6:7 says, "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out". 0 + 0 = 0. It’s self explanatory. I came in with nothing and then I worked my whole life to accumulate “stuff”. I just never got it. I have rooms, a garage, and a barn, all full of things that require constant care. Maintenance, cleaning, oil changes, mowing, weeding, trimming, waxing and the list goes on and on. I never really owned anything, if I die tomorrow; it all belongs to someone else. I am left with 0.
The truth is we don’t spend enough time shaking hands and getting hugs. Building friendships, not breaking them. We get down in the dumps when our ball is in the gutter, and when we get a strike, it’s because we're great at the game. As I have applied the truths from these verses to my life, I’m slowly learning contentment. Honestly, I’m not there yet. But I do know that on this earth, Tony, a man who is considered by many to be of no great worth, is my GREAT GAIN.
Next time we will leave “The Early Days” and start a new series named “Life On The Road”, bikes and boos. Have a great week.
My One Word: 2016 and 2017
7 months ago