Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Man Is That He Might Have Joy

I just watched an on-line video that inspired me.
It made me want to be a better person, to look for incredible opportunities, and to stop whining.
It was about surfing and skateboarding of all things.
And when you consider my age and physical condition this is amazing on several levels.
One amazement is that with my cyber-skills, I was able to come across this video in the first place. Second, since I can no longer walk, the subject matter is also a puzzle.

So, to explain, I happened to be looking for new inventions that would help broken, old people get into a car. That's when I cyber-stumbled into this amazing young man.

Seems there's this fella who was an avid surfer in California when he was a teenager. His name is Jesse. In fact he was ranked in the top 100 surfers in the world and had decided to become a professional. He was that good.

   *Just a note here. I know absolutely nothing about this sport but my entire desert family loves the beach. Vacations almost always include at least some time spent on them. And watching those crazy, dumb, brave kids, way, scary way, out there has always been a treat for everybody. Most of us usually watch while frolicking closer in on the sand and among the tide-pools. But now some of our younger, still dumber family members go way, scary way, out there too. Despite my objections. I've told them all that huge, hungry, animals and fish with big teeth live out there in the deep water but they don't listen.

Anyway, the surfers never fail to provide everybody with an exciting show.

Well, tragically, this talented young man I was telling you about suffered a terrible injury when surfing one day. A devastating injury that left him paralyzed. While still a teenager.

It's hard to even fathom the heartbreak and anguish that must have followed for him. Words just can't be found to describe the depth of those kinds of human feelings.
And perhaps somewhere in the middle of all that pain he may have wondered what sort of future lay ahead for him. He may have even questioned if life would ever be worthwhile again.
Everyone who loved him must have suffered terribly too.

But I doubt that anybody could even have imagined what actually happened.

You see, it turns out that this was one determined kid.

He loved surfing and wasn't about to give it up just because one wave sent him to a wheelchair.
You see, out there in the sun and sea he found joy. And he didn't plan on living a life without joy.
So, he figured out how to surf again.  Despite the difficulties. (You know, those difficulties that most people would say were insurmountable. Those ones.)
Then, after he began surfing again, he figured that there may be others like him, who are disabled physically, who'd like to surf too.
And maybe skateboard.

So now, year's later, you can be inspired by "Life Rolls On."  Check it out.  (If you happen to be a retired special ed teacher be prepared for tears.)
Watch some videos of hundreds of crazy surfers helping other crazy disabled kids and adults get from their wheelchairs onto surfboards. Watch the volunteers carefully paddle alongside them to catch a wave and ride in to shore.
Look at the expressions on all of their faces.
Then watch others in the adjacent skateboard park.
There a bunch of crazy skateboarder guys are teachers and spotters for other crazy kids who decided to do gravity defying, scary, impossible tricks while still sitting in their chairs. (Skateboards and wheelchairs both have wheels don't they?  So why not go sideways and sail off embankments in them?)
There's that same expression on everybody's faces again.

Now, it seems, there are many annual surfing and skateboarding events sponsored by the organization this young man started. All over the place.
Hundreds of disabled children and adults have been blessed by what they experienced at them.
They were blessed with joy.
A special kind of joy found in the freedom and excitement of movement. Joy found in being part of the sun, wind and sea. Joy found in pushing personal envelopes. Joy found in sports.
Some for the first and only time in their lives.

Now hundreds of the family and friends of those surfers and skaters have called down blessings on the heads of those who make these precious hours possible for the ones they love.
Thousands perhaps, have called down blessings on the young man who decided that being paralyzed was only an inconvenience to someone who finds joy in surfing.
Many more have been lifted just by the hearing of what he's done with his life.
I was.

Finding out about Jesse's story set me to wondering about some things.
First, I wondered if in the dark hours after his terrible injury he ever questioned whether his life would be worth living again.
If he did, I'm sure he doesn't question it anymore.
His accomplishments are incredible. He's made awesome contributions to humanity. He's lifted the spirits of hundreds and hundreds of Father's children.
All while paralyzed.

And then too, I couldn't help wondering about just one more thing.
I wondered if he would have been able to bring all these things to pass if he hadn't been injured in the first place.
That's something I plan to think about from my own chair.

I have no idea what religion this surfer dude is or what he believes. But I believe he'd make a good Mormon.
He already understands some really great gospel principles.
One is that service to others leads to happiness.
Father sent word about this in the scriptures.
   "Succor the weak, lift up the hands that hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees." (DC 81:5)
   "And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." (Mosiah 2:17)

Another thing Jesse understands is joy.
It seems that joy is really important to Heavenly Father. He told us about that in the scriptures too.
And there's no asterisks with that joy thing either. There's nothing about being exempt due to extenuating circumstances.
It just says in Second Nephi,
     "Adam fell that man might be, and man is that he might have joy."

An apostle recently reminded us of this same kind of idea with his own inspired counsel, "Come what may and love it."
Not just endure it. Love it. Whatever happens, find the joy there.

I think Jesse also gets the message in the Book of Mormon about how Father wants us to treat each other.
"Thou shalt not esteem one flesh above another," it says.
I mean, "All Men Are Created Equal"  is a good start, but the Lord's thinking really says it all, doesn't it. Male/female, broken/whole, on two feet or on two wheels, pretty/plain, educated/unschooled, old/young, rich/poor, powerful/oppressed......... it makes no difference to our Father.
He loves us all.
And we, his children, are taught to esteem everyone equally. One man should not think himself above another it goes on to say.
Everyone is equally valued by Father.
Listen up, kids.

This young man's life story reminds me too of some other really important scriptural advice.
For those dark, tragic hours that sometimes come.
In the midst of the very darkest part of the darkest hours we experience in this life it may be good to remember it.

"Be still and know that I am God."

Because you see, you never know about tomorrow.

Joy may still be ahead.
Remember Father loves us all.
And He's a big fan of joy.

*And by the way, that young man is a world champion again. This time in adaptive surfboarding.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

What's Your Favorite Ride?

*It's Larry's birthday. This is a rewrite for him. But first a note.

Dear Larry,
Happy birthday to my old and honored friend and enemy.
We've been together since we were kids. 
Both of us bear the scars from many a remembered battle and some of those old wounds still caution us sometimes, should it come on to rain. 
Still, isn't it strange that there are billions of nice people on this planet, but if you were missing, just you alone, the whole world would be empty for me. 
I'd be lonely every day. No matter who else was there.

I couldn't be happy until I saw your face again. Until I sat beside you and held your hand.
Attila (Your Hun)

Thank you so much, Heavenly Father, for the gift of the Holy Temples and Eternal Marriage.
They make happiness possible.

Last Sunday one of the speakers at Sacrament meeting was our Stake President.
Among other things, he said a few words about how the purpose of life wasn’t intended to be centered around the accumulation of wealth.  
He said that it’s okay to work for the things money can buy, but chasing riches isn’t the same as providing well for yourself and your family. 
It seems that there’s a delicate balance involved here. It turns out that a life built on wealth alone won’t bring happiness.
I thought the President's choice of subject for his talk was kind of odd because I had recently been thinking about this very subject.

Wealth is indeed a funny thing.  
Scriptures are full of teachings about it.
It means different things to different cultures around the world, and to different people in the same culture or society. For some it’s having a 10 cow wife, while for others it’s about having really big numbers on a lot of little pieces of paper. 
Whatever it is, it’s hard to think of anything that’s caused more mischief for human beings since the beginning of time. 
Think about the betrayals, hatred, murders, and wars brothers and sisters have visited on each other just to get a bigger sparkly rock, shiny piece of metal, pile of bricks and boards, or patch of dirt than their neighbor. 
It all seems to be a big deal about “stuff,” even though it all really belongs to Heavenly Father anyway. “He who dies with the most toys wins,” seems to be the world’s motto. 
It may be more important to remember that “He who dies with the most toys, still dies.”

Anyway, Larry and I were talking about this when the subject of cars came up. A great car would be right up there with a 10 cow wife as far as wealth is concerned for him. 

He’s always loved cars. When we met it was because he was in a car club as a matter of fact. My Girl Scout group just happened to meet those car guys at Slide Rock near Sedona when I was 15. 

Well, he’s a geezer now and over his lifetime he’s had lots of different cars. A few were even new and nice. Among them have been sedans, pickups (some running), SUV’s, a couple of really great sports cars, and a 4 wheel drive Jeep named “Honey” that only went backwards when he finally sold it. Under protest, I might add.
It has occurred to me once or twice that he would have been able to afford a much better selection of vehicles if he hadn’t brought every single paycheck home since he was 20 years old. They all went to buy food, diapers, and shelter for his family.
But that’s another “wealth” issue we won’t discuss here.

Anyway, we started talking about his favorites, the ones most memorable, the finest “Ride” he’d ever owned. 

Out of all those vehicles, including two Mustangs (a 1965 convertible and a 1966 fastback), and one really hot, red 1987 Firebird, there was one he kept coming back to…..his first car. 

He was 16, had just gotten a license and paid 100 dollars for a 1946 Ford that was painted primer black, lowered, with an Oldsmobile grille. 
He’d worked the entire summer before his sixteenth birthday in the sweltering watermelon sheds in Glendale, loading melons into semi-trucks for 25 cents a ton. He earned enough to pay for that car, a year’s insurance and gas money. Gas was about 23 cents a gallon at the time. 
The front bench seat of that car was just springs with no upholstery. So he threw an old Indian blanket over it so people could sit without getting pinched. 
Something was wrong with the starter or battery, he can’t remember which.  In order to get it going he and his buddies would have to jump out and run alongside it, pushing until they built up enough speed for him to hop back in, pop the clutch and get her going. 
Tires were a real problem too. He didn’t have enough money to buy 4 at a time so at one point he had 4 different sizes on that car. He kept a kind of “tire shop” in the trunk, including a hand pump, tire tools, rims and lug wrenches. That way when the guys spotted a junk tire on the side of the road they could pick it up for later use. He says they could mount an old find in about 10 minutes.
( This tire thing puzzles me because I know Larry’s dad would never stand for us to let his grandkids drive around on bald tires… matter what it cost. I’m going to talk with him about this someday when I get to the other side of the veil.)
Once the husband of a friend of Larry’s mom saw this amazing vehicle, and when he was buying new tires for himself gave Larry his old ones.  Imagine 4 matching tires!!!  That was a big day I can assure you. 

Well, that heap went to the high school every day, the Dairy Crème after school, football practice and games, Lily’s Taco Shop on Saturday nights after dates, Thunderbird Park on weekends, everywhere the guys went until Larry was able to trade up a couple of years later. 
He'd found a 1950 Ford convertible, green with a white top. 125 dollars for that one. It had a black rag top and Larry wanted white, so he painted it with white shoe polish on advice from a friend. "There could be a problem with the color running," his friend said, "but it doesn’t rain much here anyway."

Out of all the cars he’s owned this first one seems to hold a special place in his heart. That second car comes close. 

I don’t have any idea where they would land on the wealth scale. 
I know they cost far less than any of the other vehicles he’s owned…even the junkers. 
All this made me think of a recent statistic I read about somewhere. 
Apparently, it seems that after a certain level of income, people report no increase in personal happiness with the addition of more money. 

So what makes a “fine ride” anyway? 

What makes people wealthy?  Is it just the “stuff?”
What was your finest ride?

Money….. wealth….. time spent gathering stones so to speak. It's something to consider.

Where do you stand?  Are you happy about it? 
Does Father think your attitude will bring you true joy?

Big questions with important answers. 

Think about it.