Friday, June 17, 2016

Rocky Mountain Way

When I return from mission trips, I find myself asking myself if I made any sort of difference at all. This entry, from March 19, 2009, addresses that issue. It is also, like last night, about Haley!

This evening, I watched parts of a John Denver PBS special. I'm sure I've seen this particular documentary at least twice before but you can always glean some new snippet of information. This time, I caught a fascinating side story about the singer's first trip to China. Denver wanted to go somewhere he was unknown so China seemed a logical destination. However, when he landed in Shanghai, he was mobbed as he deplaned. It turns out John Denver was nowhere near as anonymous in Asia as he expected. As always, there is history involved. With the normalizing of relations between the US and China in the early 1970's, the premier of China attended a concert given by Denver in Constitution Hall. Afterwards, the premier asked Denver's producer, Milt Okun, for 500 cassettes of the concert. The Chinese leader sent the tapes to five hundred radio stations that previously had not been permitted to play western music and China was introduced to the talent of Denver. Take Me Home, Country Roads became the most popular English song in China and John Denver became an Asian icon.

Have you ever wondered if you made a difference or if the things you've done along your way mattered? When I stepped off the Korean Airlines plane in Shenyang, China this summer, nobody mobbed me. Since then, three copies of my book have been circulating in the most populous country on the face of the earth. I guess it's too much to hope that I would receive the same reception as Mr. Denver on my next trip to Asia....but you never know! We never know to what degree our influence can travel. I tell my students when we discuss the Parable of the Sower that the seed was scattered in the wind, as a dandelion when it blossoms, and we can't predict where it will land. It's my belief that most of us secretly wish at some point in our lives to become famous but inevitably, we come to realize that the great majority of the civilized world will never hear our names. But, much like a game of tag, we touch someone who touches another who does the same to someone else. That is much more realistic than the John Denver-China scenario. It's also the great thing about being a teacher; we leave a mark on each student who passes through our domain. This morning, I woke to find an e-mail from Haley, who is in the midst of a Spring Break ski trip, on my school account. Now at another school where she can pursue her dancing aspirations, Haley just wanted to tell me how much she missed me and WCS and remind me in her closing of a future obligation:
Your future wedding preachee (meaning you're preaching my wedding! : )),
Haley Angela

That is just the kind of non-material reward that keeps teachers going; not fame or popularity or wealth. Hey- I just thought of something! Do you know where Haley e-mailed me from this morning on her ski trip? COLORADO! And who was Colorado's favorite native son? JOHN DENVER! I have to think this through. Maybe this China thing is not so far-fetched after all!

Applicable quote of the day:
"There's one piece of advice my dad gave me when he dropped me off at college. He said, 'You've got the talent. You can sing and play guitar. That doesn't make you any better than anyone else.' ”

To listen to John Denver's Rocky Mountain High, click or copy/pate link below:

God bless,
Luke 18:1
E-mail me at


Laura Beth said...

Coach Hawley,
You have definitely etched a mark in me. I can't imagine where I might be now if you didn't believe in me and guide me. You have forever touched my life.

Tony C said...

Great story! I remember John telling the story in an interview about the first time he heard Leaving on a Jet Plane played on the radio. He pulled his car over in shock as Peter, Paul and Mary harmonized the lyrics of his song. He seemed so humble.

Love your blog. Keep teaching the Word! God bless.

Family fun said...

as christians, our reward will be in heaven. any glory we receive here on earth merely takes away from the glory we will receive in heaven - for we have already gotten the reward here on earth. working quietly in the background is a blessing in it's own. as a teacher, you are touching lives in ways that you may never know until we arrive in glory.