Gloria died yesterday. She had been a shut-in for over ten years. As her preacher I must have gone to see her over 1000 times. She would never have been what you called an important person. She didn’t have a pleasant exterior. She could complain a lot. I quit asking her how she felt when I went to see her because she might look halfway contented when I came through the door, but as soon as she verbalized the answer to my question her demeanor dropped 1000 points to the despair side of things.
Whenever I would go to see her she would ask about how the people in the church were, and she would ask about our grandchildren. I’d taken all three of them to see her at the nursing home at times when they came to visit us. She brightened up more than I ever saw her when they were in the room. Sometimes when they came to town I wasn’t able to take them to see her, and I knew she’d be disappointed, so I tried to talk about how busy we were when they got here, but she could be rather importunate about having them come see her.
Was Gloria needy? Yes, she was a very needy person, but then we’re not? She had love for people, but she looked for it for herself as Robinson Crusoe continually scanned the horizon for a sail. At least once, I know she got it.
Our grandson, Daniel, aged three and a half, went with me to see her the last time they were up here. I couldn’t get the others to come see her that day, but he was happy to come with me. I even got him to stand next to her so I could take a picture which I had a copy made of and gave to her later. Then it came time to go.
We were almost out of the room when he turned around and went back up to her at the bed and looked her full in the face. Only a child would have such boldness of love. Without any prompting from me he said to her, “I love you!” and then left the room.
Love comes in all kinds of packages. Getting the pure uncalculating love of a child is the greatest experience. You cannot contrive to get it. You cannot make it be given, but when it is given it is as though a billion dollar check was deposited in your checking account. There is only one love greater than the love of a child. Jesus knew it when he juxtaposed the sincere love of a little one with the love of His Father.
We look for love, but the real joy comes when love looks for us. I’m so thankful I was there to see Gloria get some of that love she longed for. It was a foretaste of the love she is experiencing now.
Humor is more specific to cultures, individuals and ages than drama or tragedy is. That’s why the comedies of Shakespeare have not fared as well over the centuries as the tragedies and histories have. Some things always make us aware of pain, but not everything seems funny to everyone.
Having stated the foregoing analysis, when I need to laugh “Father Was A Fullback” makes me laugh out loud every time. I don’t football, but I love this movie.
It starts off with a great mix of comedy people who are truly funny unlike those today who just think they’re funny: Fred Mac Murray, Maureen O’Hara, Natalie Wood, Betty Lynn (you may have known her best as Thelma Lou on Andy Griffith), Jim Backus (Mr. Howell on Gilligan’s Island), and the queen of character comediennes, Thelma Ritter (she is worth her weight in laughter in every movie I’ve seen her in with the exception of her role as Robert Stroud’s embittered mother in “Birdman of Alcatraz”). The interaction between these people is the main ingredient in this comedy. Every one of them has that absolute sense of timing that is so needed in comedy.
The film has two story lines: the first is State U’s losing football season; the second is the seemingly losing battle of wits between parents and children in the coach’s home. It was a simpler age, so the story line doesn’t involve drugs, smoking, drinking or overt rebellion. I won’t reveal what happens to State at the end of the season, but all the complications in the home are resolved in one remarkable turn of events which brings about good.
In a backhanded sort of way, too, this film is about character. The coach continues on with the team, the family learns to support one another. They all have to learn that honesty is the best policy (deception is the main stumbling block in the home), and not to give up on their dreams. The parents find that the problems of adolescence come to every child, but they also pass on when maturity and fulfillment arrives.
One said in summing up the graduates’ futures: “Be respected and loved.”
Another on a different night to a different group of graduates said, “Be kind.”
These two pronouncements made by two different school superintendents at two different graduations were made 5 nights apart and less than two miles apart, and yet the difference between the two are light years apart.
The first one was saying to the graduates, in essence, to make sure that people are treating you right. The focus is on you and how you are being dealt with. On the outside that sounds fairly innocent as we do want people to treat us right, and there are times when we may have to stand up for our rights, but taken to its logical conclusion without any qualification at the heart it is simply telling the graduates to look out for number one, or in even plainer terms, to be self-centered in their thinking. Assessment of the future is based on what we get from others.
The other view is vastly different. It encourages people to think not of what they get, but of what they receive. This is the cry that has gone out in presidential inaugurations, in military mottoes and from Jesus Christ.
According to the scholars I have read, the very concept of kindness as we conceive of it did not exist in the ancient world until Christianity came along. While being kind seems weakness to many, it is really being super strong. It was Jesus who defined kindness and he defined it in blood. To treat people better than they deserve is the sign of real strength.
Every day we graduate from what we have been to what we are. My advice to graduates is to follow both sets of advice, but to change the words of the first charge around so as to make it compatible with the second. Be kind to others by respecting and loving them.