In the Florida Baptist Witness for January 15, 2009, the mother of Tim Tebow, all-star quarterback for the University of Florida’s national championship football team, tells how she and her husband raised their children, all of them winners. “We told them, ‘if you hang around with fools, you’re going to suffer harm. You need to hang around with wise people.”
How we wish we could get that point across to every kid on the planet.
My grandchildren have a hard time believing that their grandpa was in trouble as a seventh-grader. I was running with two or three fellows whose idea of a good time was to sit on the back row in class and goof off, then cut class in the afternoon and roam around town. We smoked cigarettes (when we could get them), we stood around the pool hall (we didn’t have the money to play), and once we actually stole a student’s billfold.
One day it hit me that absolutely no part of these activities were fun. I was miserable. And that day, all by myself, at the advanced age of 12, I made a life-altering decision: I moved to the front row in class. That means I left the guys I’d been goofing off with on the back row, there were no distractions between the teacher and me, and I began enjoying class once more. Two years later, when a local civic club awarded a trip to the state capitol to the best students in the ninth grade, I was the boy representing our class.
The first Psalm has something like this in mind: “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.”
Over five years ago, when I performed the wedding of Eric Leonard and Janet Chaplain, Eric gave me a book by motivational speaker John G. Miller, “QBQ! The Question Behind the Question.” Subtitles for the little paperback volume are: “What to really ask yourself; Practicing personal accountability in business and in life.” Couple of things I thought you’d find interesting….
Miller aims his message at the tendency we see in ourselves and others to shirk personal responsibility with statements like “that’s not my job; it’s the fault of the shipping department; why don’t they do something?” The real question, he says, “the question behind the question,” should be “What can I do?”
Miller tells of having a quick lunch in a Minneapolis eatery and taking the last stool at the bar. A waiter rushing by with his arms loaded with dirty dishes paused to ask if he’d been waited on. “No,” Miller said. “I just want a salad and a couple of rolls.” “I can get that for you,” the waiter said. “What do you want to drink?”
John Miller said, “A diet Coke.” “We only serve Pepsi,” he said. “Is that all right?” Miller said, “No. Just bring me water with lemon.”
A minute or two later, he was back with the salad, rolls, and water. Then, as Miller was delving into his lunch, there was a flurry of activity over his shoulder as the waiter reached over and laid a diet Coke beside his plate. “Hey, I thought you didn’t serve Coke.” “We don’t,” he said. “We bought it at the grocery next door.”
Wow, Miller thought. I want to hire this guy. Then he thought of something.
“I can see how busy you are,” he told the waiter as he came by a minute later. “When did you find the time to go get it?” The young man smiled. “I didn’t. So I sent my manager!”
Reading that, I recalled the time I had bought a soft drink in a McDonald’s and handed it back to the manager to call her attention to the ring of rust around the top lip. She said, “That’s because it’s the last cup in the holder. It picked up the rust from the container.” I kept waiting for her to apologize or offer to replace it. Instead, she repeated what had caused the rust. I finally insisted she throw this out and pull me another drink, but walked away shaking my head. Customer service was the last thing on that lady’s mind.
One more from Miller’s book.
When Stacey was 12 years old, her father took her joyriding over Lake Michigan in his single-engine Cessna. Everything was fine for a while, then suddenly the engine stopped. “Honey,” the dad said, “The engine has quit. I’m going to fly the plane differently now.” (Isn’t that cool? He’s about to put the plane into a nose dive, and he calls it “flying the plane differently.”) Stacey understood. He told her he would be hitting switches, trying to get the engine restarted. He did, but nothing happened.
Dad leveled the plane off halfway to the lake, then said, “Stacey, we’re going to try that again. Hang on!” A second time, the plane went into a steep dive while dad hit all the switches. Now, the engine sputtered to life again, then the familiar hum belched forth. Twenty minutes later, they landed at the airport.
Miller writes, “At that point, this Rock of Gibraltar kind of guy, this Fearless Father, this Man of Courage turned to his 12-year-old daughter, lovingly patted her shoulder and said, ‘Now, honey, whatever you do, don’t tell Mom!‘”
In recent days, the world has been treated to images of one of our political leaders who is going through treatment for a cancerous tumor. I’m not sure of his age — mid-70s, I suppose — but have been struck by how old he looks. He’s greatly overweight, walks with a cane and clearly has trouble moving around. Having had cancer myself, I know the peril of blaming that dreaded disease on anything in particular, so my thoughts here have nothing to do with that. However, having observed his long career from a distance, I am aware of the lifestyle he led for so many years. His drinking and smoking, his nightly pub-crawling, and his sedentary lifestyle, all contributed to prematurely age him and cut short his usefulness in governing this land.
I recall, by contrast, reports of Strom Thurmond, who stayed in the Senate until he was approaching the century mark. I have read of the physical regimen he engaged in each day in an attempt to stay healthy and sharp. It’s a great lesson.
On a television program this week, I heard a pathologist talk about smoking. “I open up the bodies in our morgue,” she said, “and I can tell you in a minute whether the person was a smoker.” What did she see? “Large black spots on the lungs.” She said, “Each cigarette is said to reduce your life expectancy by 10 minutes.” She admitted to having become an apostle against smoking.
She added, “I like to encourage people to quit smoking by telling them that the moment they quit, their risk for heart disease begins to drop immediately.”
I can just hear young adults saying, “I have plenty of time to quit.” Oh yeah. And plenty of time for alcohol and tobacco to work its devastation upon your body, too.
A couple of years ago at the annual meeting of Southern Baptists, Guidestone set up an exhibit where people could fill out a questionnaire and be checked out by a health pro. Their report indicated that my “health age” was two years younger than my actual age. (The nurse said if I would lose about 30 pounds, it would drop even more.)
Almost every day of my life, I do my 15 minutes of exercises with the 10 pound weights, walk from 2 to 3 miles outside, and try to eat right. My breakfast — as long as I can find them in the stores — involves strawberries and blueberries.
Eating right, getting proper exercise, going to church, loving my family, praying.
I don’t know how young that will make a person, but maybe it will delay the onset of aging as long as possible.
Konrad Adenauer was chancellor of West Germany when he was in his 90s. Once during a physical, his doctor said, “Herr Chancellor, I cannot make you younger.” He replied, “I don’t want to be younger. I just want to go on getting older!”
Personally, I’ll take a little younger.