Thursday, March 16, 2017

The Guy In The Middle Seat

I’m sitting in the waiting room at my Honda dealer. We are on Spring Break and this was the first time I had to deal with the airbag recall notice I received last summer. It’s free but it will require several hours of sitting. At least there is coffee! I’m not a good sitter which is why flying is something I don’t really enjoy unless there are movies, not offered on Southwest Airlines domestic flights. Flying back and forth to and from Milwaukee thirteen days ago required four legs of travel with stops in Dallas and Denver meaning four sets of seat companions. Southwest’s policy of choosing your own seat based on check in time is a roll of the dice. Two of the four segments produced some thought provoking moments for me. Between Denver and Milwaukee, I sat with an engaged couple. The gentleman, who is from Greece, offered to share his meal with me, a complete stranger. They told me about their upcoming wedding and even wondered if I might be willing to come to Colorado to be the officiant as they were having trouble finding someone to perform the ceremony. I politely declined, citing basketball camps and preparations for my Vietnam mission trip. The guy, in his early thirties, basically told me his life story between bits of his dinner. His family had been wealthy but the economic crisis in recent years had caused his parents to take a severe financial hit. No longer could they totally underwrite his American education (he has several advanced degrees from prestigious US universities) and he was forced to fend for himself in large part. This is what I found fascinating. He told me he wished it had happened earlier, not the crippling of the Greek monetary system, but the shutting off of the financial tap from his folks. They had never made or even let him work. Even in the summers, they paid for his vacations all over the map. He told me that he found having to pay for his own stuff for the first time in his life liberating. And while he dearly loves his mother and father, he feels he was deprived of a tremendous human need, the need to work and handle money with responsibility. I can assure you; I never felt that same deprivation!

My new friend and I touched on other matters as well, particularly his parents’ desire that they wed in a church building in his homeland. But my overriding takeaway was the mature grasp he had of blessing in the midst of hardship, a viewpoint few in the world would share under the same circumstances. I got my hair cut this morning by a lady whose family fled Korea after the Conflict/War. She told me how important work is to her; how she feels she would be less accomplished if she were idle; how she still makes her lunch even though she is wealthy enough to buy it. She might be as patriotic an American as I know- she realizes what she left behind and how she has been blessed in the land in which I was born. And although both the lady barber and the soon to be groom are different in many ways, they share the common appreciation for work. Their experiences could scarcely be more different but they treasure that one mutual value which they arrived at from life in other nations and cultures. In looking at them, I am reminded of some things in my childhood. We weren't rich but I always knew I was loved; loved by my parents, loved by God and Jesus and the Holy Spirit. Loved by my extended family and the adults who I saw at worship and in school as well as on the court and baseball diamond. The value of love is something I've taken for granted as I've never lived without it. My parents gave us the gift of  absolute acceptance, coupled with boundaries and consequences.... but there was zero doubt we were loved to the maximum. Tragically, we live in a world starving for love. So many have never had the blessing of being adored in an earthly family or feeling adored by a Heavenly Father. If only they knew. If only I hadn't known. Don't keep it to yourself. It's the gift that multiplies.

Applicable quote of the day:
One might think that the money value of an invention constitutes its reward to the man who loves his work. But... I continue to find my greatest pleasure, and so my reward, in the work that precedes what the world calls success. Thomas A. Edison

God bless,
Luke 18:1
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