Gnomes tend to be odd little creatures by any standard one wishes to measure against. For instance, their classified name: Gnome. It starts with a letter that is silent; one doesn’t pronounce the “G” so why even use it? Odd I would say. Then their bodies are out of proportion. Their feet are much too large given their height, or they are too short for their large, flat feet. Their heads are also large, and are flat on top. Not just less rounded, but flat, like a rectangular shaped pancake with grey fuzzy hair on top. Of course they have stubby fingers, big knees, awkward legs and beady eyes, which rounds out the entirely odd package. But then again, none of us are perfect; are we? Given all that could be considered less-than-beautiful about a Gnome, they still remain positive in their view of life and the world, a testimate to their ability to see the greater good in almost anything.
This story is the prototype of my next book, a year long weekly devotional featuring short stories that kindle long thoughts about God. Fifty-two stories, hundreds of new ways to think about your relationship with God, and hopefully in an interesting and engaging way. Let me know what you think.
Outside my window on the fourth row, the runway raced underneath faster and faster until the nose of the jet lifted, dragging the rest of the 737 with it. The two powerful engines overpowered gravity for the moment; but eventually gravity would win the battle, it always did. So our pilot’s most important objective became choosing where and when the aircraft would submit to gravity and return to earth. Everyone on board flight 765 that day preferred the surrender be accomplished gently, on a runway at the Denver airport.
“Here it is,” Johnny would scream from the front of the column, “I found the bread crumb!” Of course, ants don’t really scream because they don’t even talk, but if any could, Johnny would be the first. Each morning Johnny would set out from the colony in search of nourishment, because there were 40,000 ants to feed and it was Johnny’s job, along with 39,998 other ants, to find the food for the day. Johnny took his responsibility to his family and friends seriously.
I lived through another night. Funny, just a few years ago not living for any reason wasn’t something that I considered. Now, with all that has happened over the last 24 months, just being alive is a miracle. Although what I am doing isn’t really living…it is existing until I don’t anymore. If this journal survives, maybe it will help someone smarter than I am understand what has happened. I am not really sure.
Most of us try to be first; first in that “over 40 year old 5K race,” first to get the promotion, first in line at the theater, first on line to buy concert tickets, first to get the view of the morning sunrise, first in your college graduating class, or first to get control of the TV remote. Being first has been a preoccupation with humankind, from the beginning of the Olympic games where we proved who was best at some sport, to the first to file a patent so we can lay claim to ownership of a design or idea. It is a natural human condition to want to be first, with a few notable exceptions: the first to die, the first to pay taxes, the first to sin. The reasoning behind not wanting to die first is obvious, and no one enjoys paying taxes so why do it first? To sin is to willingly separate from God, so why be first at something so bad? The initial sin is almost expected, because we all fall short of perfection, but the second sin is by choice – after observing or doing it once, we with full knowledge do it again. So maybe, it is better to be the first sinner, rather than the second. Perhaps the first sin is not the worst, but it is the second sin that we all must avoid.
In a car or on a plane,
On a bike or in a train,
At the end of the day or the end of a week,
It is home I love to seek.
Kaizer, our 100 pound lap-dog, can suck the negativity and anger right out of anyone, his enthusiasm for life fills a room when he enters it; as does his enormous head, long and lean body, and huge feet. His tail can be compared to nuclear energy; it is meant for good, but when it’s near a coffee table where any breakables are on display – the incredible force of his nonstop, speed-of-light tail can only leave destruction and heartache behind. He is one of two dogs whose home we share (note the implied ownership – they hold the mortgage and have never made a payment), and without them our home seems empty and too quiet. Kaizer is a good dog (and Harley – so are you).
A longtime friend left for Heaven a few weeks back. He had lived a long and fruitful life, positively influencing the lives of many and rarely asking anything in return. He gave much – much more than he got, but that is how he wanted it. He is missed because we cannot see him anymore, but his touch on our hearts and minds; the memories of laughter, of intelligent discussion and political debate are now integral to our DNA. A part of us left when he did, because we are a mixture of ourselves and the people we love and who love us. The essence of my life is the sum of what God does, what I do, and what I absorb from friends and family. So, some of me left when he did, but much more of him stayed behind. Like I said, he gave more that he got.
The bell shaped curve, that great equalizer of the school classroom, is meant to explain how a population of test scores will eventually unfold itself neatly along a predetermine path, thus displaying the test results into upper, lower, and average positions. In my eighth grade English class, I prayed that everyone else was as confused and ill-prepared as I, so the entire curve would be adjusted downward, giving me a fighting chance for a graded-on-the-curve C. But the concept of a predictable outcome of highs, mediums and lows, is not just used in school; cars are labeled as luxury, mid class, and economy, you can fly in first class, coach, or in lower fare seats. The bell shaped curve is also used to described our life (yours and mine), in terms of its quality when compared to everyone else. Are we middle class, upper class, or poor? Those labels are thrown at us by politicians, reporters, educators; the need for others to categorize our life into a single box is nearly fanatical in its scope.
Perhaps worse is when we place our ability to be happy (content, or joyful) on a human bell shaped curve, relegating the amount of time we can spend being at the apex of life to 10-15 %, and when we are ‘just average’ to 70% of life’s timeline. I don’t believe people knowingly choose a mid-level happiness state for the bulk of their life, I think it just happens. I think we self-impose an expectation that being in a constant state of over-the-top exuberant happiness is wrong – only weird or naive people think like that. We tend to accept that good is good enough, and great is rare.
Ask someone the question, “How are you?” The overwhelming response is, “Good.” You will get a few greats, and a few that are ousy, but good will dominate. I submit that being great is a much more natural state that being good, and that we can, and should, redefine the curve to include more great, and less good and lousy. I believe that the plan was always for greatness, and we have deviated from where we can be.
Here are a few ways to move the bar towards great:
- Redefine the driving force that creates your personal happiness (or joy) away from external sources to internal ones. Try not to rely on a person, place or event to make you happy. Choose to be happy all on your own.
- Use your own definition for happiness, not that of someone else. It’s your life, you get to define it.
- If happiness and joy are elusive, try doing something great for someone else, and something great for yourself too. Feeling great spreads from person to person like butter on warm bread.
I’m not proposing an arrogant version of great or a prideful view of happy. Just the opposite, I am promoting a humble and sincere version of being at the top, where there is room for everyone.
I find joy in my faith, where I am told that I am special, I am one of a kind and I am loved beyond my capacity to comprehend. There is nothing wrong with feeling good, but there is something very right about being great.
Thanks for reading.