When No One Is Looking

(A devotional thought from the book One Smile, One Heart)

I never expected drama in the parking lot. Three spots were open so I casually pulled into the center one. I didn’t open my door right away. Instead I sat for a few minutes, checking the messages on my phone. At some point I glanced up to notice an SUV pull in to my left. The driver was a middle-aged man and the passenger was a woman of similar age. I went back to reading my messages. And then…

WHAM! I jolted at the impact of metal slamming into metal. My head spun left to see the woman’s heavy SUV door resting against the mirror of my Beetle. I stared through my window at her in amazement. Her mouth formed an “O” and she slapped her hand over it as she stared back at me. She pulled her door back a notch and climbed out. When she closed the door, I opened mine and got out too.

“Oh! I am so sorry!” the woman exclaimed. “I didn’t know anyone was in there!”

DID SHE REALLY JUST SAY THAT???

“That’s not the point!” I replied loudly. “I don’t want my car banged up!”

“Oh, no, no, no. It’s not,” the woman proclaimed arrogantly.

I glared at her. I examined my mirror as best I could in the fading daylight. “Well, I guess it’s ok,” I stated. She turned and started walking away. I called after her, “Have a nice evening!”

Charles Marshall said, “Integrity is doing the right thing when no one else is looking.” That most certainly includes parking lots, car doors, and mirrors.

********************

“I know, my God, that you test the HEART and are pleased with integrity” (1 Chronicles 29:17 NIV).

Advertisements

Art and Much More

“Mom, I have kids in my classes who constantly whine, ‘I can’t do this!'” my daughter said. “They don’t get any sympathy from me. I tell them there are people without arms who do art with their feet. There are people without arms and legs who do art with their mouths. There are artists who are blind. I tell the kids that they have two good arms and two good legs and two good eyes and I don’t want to ever hear ‘I can’t do this’ in my classroom.”

I smiled at my spunky 26-year-old as she flipped back her long brown hair in defiance. I smiled on the inside, too, so proud of her determination to teach her elementary students much more than art.

Before I could respond, she continued. “I tell them about you, too. How you were born with one arm, but you never let that stop you from doing anything. I want you to make a YouTube video for me to play for the kids. Show them how you do things. Talk to them about how they should never say ‘I can’t.'”

“Wow, Cassie, I’d be honored to do that. I think that’s a great idea,” I said.

Over the next few days my mind swirled with possibilities. Which tasks should I demonstrate for the kids?

I could show them how I type. My computer keyboard has one simple adaption—I built up the shift key with Velcro squares so that I can press it with my prosthetic left hand and not accidentally push the keys around it. I taught myself to rest my right fingers on the traditional home keys and make all of the reaches to the other keys with one hand.

I could show them how I hook a necklace. I put the necklace around the back of my neck with the latch and ring in front. I hold the ring end of the chain in my mouth and, looking in a mirror, navigate the latch into the ring with my right hand.

I could show them how I hold things in my prosthetic hand. I move back the upper arm to trigger the lock on my prosthetic elbow. Once the elbow is locked, I can do shoulder movements to pull cables that open and close the hand, allowing me to grip things.

And then it struck me. The question kids ask me most is: “How do you tie your shoes?” That was it. I decided to make the video of me tying my shoes, an easy task for kids, a not-so-easy task for me. I first demonstrated tying my pink Sperry shoes while wearing my prosthetic arm. Next I demonstrated tying them without wearing my prosthetic arm, a larger challenge that requires using my knees and feet.

I closed the video with these words: “‘I can’t.’ Do you ever say those two words? The next time you start to do something and hear yourself saying, ‘This is too hard, I can’t,’ I want you to remember watching me tie my shoes. Just because something is hard doesn’t mean you can’t do it. You can use that smart brain of yours and figure out a way. You can keep trying until you get it. You can do amazing things if you never allow yourself to say ‘I can’t.'”

Cassie showed the video to her students. They exclaimed, “That’s your mom?”

“Yes,” she replied. “And just like her, you can do anything if you try.”

Cassie said the “I can’t” whines decreased significantly during the remainder of the school year. Her students worked hard to master basic art elements like shape, texture, symmetry, perspective, and color. When summer break finally arrived, the kids left with new art skills… and much more.

Growing Older, Dreaming Bigger

On December 8, 2016, an American hero died—Astronaut John Glenn. He was 95 years old.

John was an ordinary person from a small town in Ohio. His mom was a school teacher and his dad owned a plumbing business. But John had big dreams. And he pursued those dreams.

  • First John served in the U.S. MILITARY for 24 years. During WWII he flew 59 combat missions over Japanese positions. His plane was hit by antiaircraft fire five times, but he survived. During the Korean War John flew 90 combat missions. Twice he returned to his base with over 250 holes in his plane.
  • Next John was an ASTRONAUT in the Mercury spaceflight program. On Feb. 20, 1962, he climbed into a small spacecraft called Friendship 7 and was launched into space. Flying at speeds of over 17,000 miles per hour, he circled the earth three times in five hours. Neither John nor NASA knew what would happen upon re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. Would the heat shield protect his spacecraft or would it be burned up? Miraculously, he made it back safely. John was the first American to orbit the earth.
  • Later John was elected to the U.S. SENATE and represented his home state of Ohio for 24 years.

So now picture John Glenn at 77 years old. He is in his fourth term as senator. He has lived an amazing life. He has made unbelievable contributions to America and to the world. He is ready to kick back and take it easy, right? Wrong! He’s ready to go back into space! To put it in John’s own words, “Just because I’m 77 doesn’t mean I don’t have dreams.”

One of John’s focuses while senator was serving on the Special Committee on Aging. This committee studied issues facing an aging U.S. population. John pushed to go back into space, sort of like a guinea pig, to test the effects of space flight on an aging body. NASA agreed and on Oct. 29, 1998, he boarded the space shuttle Discovery and once again made history as the oldest man to fly in space. From high above the earth, John said: “To look out at this kind of creation out here and not believe in God is to me impossible.”

John Glenn had big dreams and big plans, even as an older adult. It is apparent that God had big dreams and big plans for John Glenn, too. Jeremiah 29:11 says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” It doesn’t say “I have plans for you up until retirement age.” It just says “I have plans for you—period.”

How big are your plans? Are there people you can help or inspire? Is there a goal you haven’t yet met? Are there places you’d like to go? I want to challenge you to have big dreams, even if you are an older adult, especially if you are an older adult.