THE FOLLY OF MINDING ONE’S OWN BUSINESS

A group of people were travelling in a boat. One of them took a drill and began to drill a hole beneath himself.

His companions said to him: “Why are you doing this?” Replied the man: “What concern is it of yours? Am I not drilling under my own place?”

Said they to him: “But you will flood the boat for us all!”

Here’s a slightly different version:

A group of people are sitting in a boat. One takes an axe and begins chopping at the floor. The others cry in horror, “What are you trying to do?’ The man answers, ‘What business is it of yours? I am doing this to my part of the boat!”

Source | Vayikra Rabba 4:6

CONSIDER THIS

The moral of this story is clear: one person’s destructive action may literally drown the entire community. But we might add that the inverse is also true: a single positive change may transform an entire community.

  • What holes have you been boring in your life, thinking, ‘It’s only my seat’?
  • Are you willing to take a look at how they are affecting the lives of others, especially the ones you love?

MISTAKING THE GOOD FOR THE BEST

Herman closed the front door gently, took off his coat, and hung it in the closet. He unzipped his overshoes, first one and then the other, slid them off, and bent down to put them in the closet. There a wild jumble of boots and rubbers confronted him. Muttering under his breath, he began to sort them out and arrange them two by two. Then he carefully placed his own side by side in the last square inch of space and tried to close the door. It would not close. A parka that had been jammed in hurriedly was blocking the door. Herman methodically rearranged the coats and jackets and sweaters. Then he closed the door gently.

For one flashing second he thought, “Why didn’t I just slam that door? Why didn’t I just throw my overshoes in on top of the heap like everybody else does?” But it was only a momentary spasm. “One just does not do things that way,” he said to himself.

The house was strangely quiet. The cat meowed plaintively and rubbed against his leg. He stooped over and patted her.

“Hello, Mrs. Beasley.”

Funny name for a cat, but Tammy had insisted on calling her Mrs. Beasley after she’d seen a television doll commercial. A ridiculous name for a cat really.

“I wanted to call her Whiskers or Tabby, but Tammy insisted on Mrs. Beasley,”   Herman recalled, smiling to himself. “Mrs. Beasley.”

The cat followed him to the refrigerator. He poured some milk into her dish and opened a new can of cat food.

“Where is everybody?” he asked the cat as he spooned out food into her dish. Then Herman closed the refrigerator door gently.

“Last minute shopping, I guess.”

He mused about it as he went upstairs to take off his clothes.

“Lorraine is always shopping at the last minute. Well, not always, but a good bit of the time. Probably wieners and beans for dinner tonight.”

He was mildly irritated. The bedroom was a shambles. Lorraine’s slacks and blouse were thrown on the bed. The closet doors were flung open. A dress hung askew on a crooked hanger. Her shoes had obviously been quickly rummaged through. He sighed and opened the closet door gently. He hung his suit away, then carried his shirt to the clothes hamper in the bathroom. He had to push Tammy’s sneakers off the mat as he hung up her towel. He scooped up her play clothes and crammed them together with his shirt into the hamper.

“Life would be so much easier if people would just take a little time to be more tidy. It would make my job easier too,” he thought as he ran water into the sink.

He had to plan his day. This was Herman’s way – the only way he could manage to retain any semblance of sanity. Then inevitably somebody came along and disrupted his plans. Suddenly a great weariness came over him. As he leaned on his hands in the water, random thoughts begin to flicker through his mind like fragments of a ragged film running through a broken projector. Would the company expand or relocate? Maybe we will have to move. Jennings would sure like my job – he is a manipulator. The house needs painting. The living room rug is pretty worn. Has the washing machine been repaired? Wonder how much it was? Tammy’s tooth is loose; maybe it will drop out. Jennings has just built a new house. His payments must be very steep—no wonder he wants my job. At least Lorraine sews her own clothes; that is a help. We have got to throw a party soon—there are lots of invitations to pay back. Oh, the pledge card from the church, it has just come. Got to get the car winterized; should have it sanded and painted if l am going to drive it another year. I wonder if we will get any tax breaks this year? Didn’t get anything done today like I planned. That dumb Jennings—he messed up my whole afternoon—had to drop everything and go to a special session to consider his harebrained plans. He seems to think he is the only idea man in the company. How do they expect me to get my work done with all these interruptions?

He dressed and closed his closet door gently. He picked up Lorraine’s slacks and blouse and hung them away. “Poor girl! I know she gets fed up with her daily routines. Breakfast, cleaning, getting Tammy off to kindergarten, cooking, washing, ironing. I know she would like to get out. At least I see grown people every day. This house must be like a prison to her.” He closed her closet door gently and went downstairs. Mrs. Beasley rubbed his leg and he picked her up.

“Six o’clock—wherever could they be?”

He started to sort through the mail, and it was then that he saw the note. “

“Herman, we waited until almost five for you and then just had to leave. Please get a cab and join us. You missed Tammy’s birthday party last year: Try not to miss it again this year. Lorraine! ”

Tammy’s birthday party. At a restaurant that caters such things. They had planned it together. He had been a little reluctant at first, but okay, the sixth birthday is a milestone, and he could see Tammy that very morning saying, “Daddy, you’ll be there, won’t you?” and he had given her a big hug.

He looked at the clock, and it said 6:15. Somewhere in his soul, Herman heard a door slam shut. The kingdom of heaven, so it is said, is like the time a man received an invitation—even conscientious Hermans can miss the party because they mistake the good for the best.

Source | Edward Richard Riegert,
in The Lutheran Quarterly, vol 16 (February 1974)

Quoted in
John Claypool, Stories Jesus Still Tells
(Cowley Publications, 2007) pages 63-66

CONSIDER THIS

  • Are you paying attention to what really matters in life?
  • Where are you investing the precious gift of time? In urgencies and emergencies? In important things? Or in what is essential?

LAUGHTER IN THE WALLS

I pass a lot of houses on my way home; some pretty, some inviting. But my heart skips a beat when I see my house nestled against the hill. I’m especially proud of the way it looks because I drew the plans myself. It started out large enough for us. I even had a study, in which two teenage boys now reside! It had a guest room, but my girl and nine dolls are permanent guests there now. It had a room for Peg, who hoped to turn it into her sewing room. But two boys swinging on the Dutch door have claimed that room. Right now it appears I’m not much of an architect. But it’ll get larger again.

One by one they’ll go away to college, work, the service, their own homes. Then there’ll be room: a guest room, a sewing room, a study, just for the two of us. But it won’t be empty. Every corner, room, nick in the coffee table will be full of memories. Memories of picnics, Christmases, birthdays, bedside vigils…going barefoot, vacations, cats, dogs, black eyes…graduations, first dates, arguments, ball games…and a thousand other things that fill the lives of those who rear five kids.

And Peg and I will sit quietly by the fire and listen to the laughter in the walls.

Source | Bob Benson, Laughter in the Walls
(Nashville: Impact Books, 1969)

CONSIDER THIS 

Childhood and youth evaporate swiftly. So fill them with loving, wonderful, sustaining memories.

FAITHFULNESS

Often, when he came to visit, my grandfather would bring me a present. These were never the sorts of things that other people brought, dolls and books and stuffed animals. My dolls and stuffed animals have been gone for more than half a century but many of my grandfather’s gifts are with me still.

Once he brought me a little paper cup. I looked inside it expecting something special. It was full of dirt. I was not allowed to play with dirt. Disappointed, I told him this. He smiled at me fondly. Turning, he picked up the little teapot from my dolls tea set and took me to the kitchen where he filled it with water. Back in the nursery, he put the tea cup on the windowsill and handed me the teapot. “If you promise to put some water in the cup every day, something may happen,” he told me.

At the time, I was four years old and my nursery was on the sixth floor of an apartment building in Manhattan. This whole thing made no sense to me at all. I looked at him dubiously. He nodded with encouragement. “Every day, Neshume-le,” he told me.

And so I promised. At first, curious to see what would happen, I did not mind doing this. But as the days went by and nothing changed, it got harder and harder to remember to put water in the cup. After a week, I asked my grandfather if it was time to stop yet. Shaking his head no, he said, “Every day, Neshume-le.” The second week was even harder, and I became resentful of my promise to put water in the cup. When my grandfather came again, I tried to give it back to him but he refused to take it, saying simply, “Every day, Neshume-le.” By the third week, I began to forget to put water in the cup. Often I would remember only after I had been put to bed and would have to get out of bed and water it in the dark. But I did not miss a single day. And one morning, there were two little green leaves that had not been there the night before.

I was completely astonished. Day by day they got bigger. I could not wait to tell my grandfather, certain that he would be as surprised as I was. But of course he was not. Carefully he explained to me that life is everywhere, hidden in the most ordinary and unlikely places. I was delighted. “And all it needs is water, Grandpa?” I asked him. Gently he touched me on the top of my head. “No, Neshume-le,” he said. “All it needs is your faithfulness.”

Source | Rachel Naomi Remen, My Grandfather’s Blessings
:
Stories of Strength, Refuge, and Belonging

(Riverhead Trade, 2001 ) pages 1-2

CONSIDER THIS

Life is everywhere, hidden in the most ordinary and unlikely places and all it needs is our faithfulness.

LOST FOR WORDS

A shy young man fell in love, but he was utterly tongue-tied whenever he was with the girl. A friend offered some advice: “Just memorize some great lines, expressing your total admiration. Something like, ‘When I see your face, time stands still.’”

It made sense, so for weeks the young man practiced: “When I see your face, time stands still.” Finally he was ready. He took her to a romantic restaurant. The lights were low. His eyes met hers and he said, “When I see your face, I, time, uh…” He couldn’t remember the words.  Again he tried, “Mary, When I see your face, I, er, I mean …” Now he was totally flustered, so in desperation he blurted out, “Mary, your face could stop a clock.”

Source |  Dennis R. Clark, Sunday Morning Food for the Soul
(The Church of the Nativity, 1999) page 90

CONSIDER THIS

There’s a part of us that’s a little sad when we hear a story like that, because it reminds us of all the things, large and small, that we’re still struggling to get right. “After all this time,” we say to ourselves, “I’m still stumbling at the same old places in the road. Same old places. Same old cuts and bruises!”

Have you ever meant to say something that didn’t come out just the way you wanted it to?

“Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” | Colossians 4:6

THE KING AND THE BEGGAR

As I went begging today from door to door they cried, “He is coming! He draws near!” And seeing the dust of your gorgeous chariot, I thought, “Who can this be but a king among kings?”

My hopes soared, and I stood waiting for alms to be given and wealth scattered in the dust. Your chariot stopped right before me, you looked down with a smile, and I knew that the luck of my days had come. Until suddenly you held out your palm and said, “What will you give?”

Begging from a beggar! What a kingly jest – I was confused and dismayed, but I groped in my sack until I brought out one grain of wheat, the tiniest thing I could afford.

I got home that night and emptied my sack on the floor, only to spy a grain of gold gleaming there in the heap. Then how bitterly I wept. If you did this for a tiny grain of wheat, what would you return if I had given you everything?

Source | Deepak ChopraThe Soul in Love: Classic Poems of Ecstasy and Exaltation
(Harmony, 2001) pages 102-103

CONSIDER THIS

How often are you the beggar in the story, reaching in for one kernel of corn, holding back, and giving much less than your all?

 

 

REALITY

A guy is riding in the first-class cabin of a train in Spain and to his delight, he notices that he is sitting next to Pablo Picasso. Gathering up his courage, he turns to the master and says,

“Senor Picasso, you are a great artist, but why is all your art, all modern art, so screwed up? Why don’t you paint reality instead of all these distortions?”

Picasso hesitates for a moment and asks, “So what do you think reality looks like?”

The man grabs his wallet and pulls out a picture of his wife. “Here, like this. It’s my wife.”

Picasso takes the photograph, looks at it, and grins. “Really? She’s very small. And flat, too.”

Source | Seth GodinLinchpin: Are You Indispensable?
(New YorkPenguin, 2010) page 2.

CONSIDER THIS

Reality means more than a simple two-dimensional snapshot of the world, even though the snapshot may be true.