A Leg Up In The World

What I see

Dinnertime.  My job, while the Lovely Lady does her amazing magic in the kitchen, is to set the table.  The whole family will be here soon, along with a couple of extras, so I need to get busy.  As I head for the china hutch, I seem to remember some little contact with a couple of black monsters in the backyard a few moments ago, so a trip to the washroom seems to be in order.  I flip on the light switch and stand over the sink, first pumping a bit of soap on my hands and then rinsing them off, as I lean down to reach the water rushing from the faucet.  A moment of drying on the hand towel nearby and I’m off to do my work.  It is a routine I find myself repeating any number of times every day.  And it is routine…for me.

Their perspective

Some time later, dinner ready, the little urchins are ready to head for the table.  It appears that they have played for awhile on the swing set and don’t seem to be in pristine condition, so they are routed through the bathroom to repeat the process of de-griming which their mother undoubtedly put them through prior to their arrival here.  After a few moments of scuffling and verbal complaints, I glance around the corner, to realize that the little ones are in the dark still.  One of them is about to remedy that by climbing up the ladder-like ceramic handles of the drawers to the side of the lavatory, but quick action averts that disaster-waiting-to-happen.  Now, I’m not mentally slow, but this is slightly confusing.  I washed my hands in there only minutes ago and had no problem reaching either the light switch or the faucet handles, or even the soap dispenser.  What is going on here?  Oh, yeah!  These guys are a bit shorter than I, so they seem to have a slightly different context for achieving the same objective.  From their viewpoint, what was to me a routine, simple task has become almost insurmountable, with the possible exception of the adventurous climber among them.

We have a decision to make.  Do we pick them up and hold them as they remove the soil from their hands?  It will be a lengthy, and quite possibly, a damp task which will have to be repeated multiple times.  I don’t relish the thought.  Perhaps, we could just leave them dirty.  A little dirt never hurt…No, probably not a good idea.  They definitely need to wash.  The solution is near at hand.  Many years ago, my late father-in-law, as his custom often was, stopped by a garage sale on his way to the music store.  When he arrived at work with the little red stool in hand, his explanation for the purchase, as usual, was that it was a bargain.  No other explanation was ever given; never mind that there were no children around to use the old thing.  Now, with belated thanks to an absent great-grandfather, the stool is once again pressed into service, aiding the vertically challenged imps in their quest for cleanliness.

What a simple solution!  We don’t have to do the job for them, nor are we required  to allow them to remain filthy.  There is no purpose to berating them for being unable to reach the equipment, and no profit in lecturing them on the advantages of being taller.  To assist the youngsters in achieving the goal, we merely give them a leg up, so to speak.  They only require a little help to do what is necessary.  And, we have the means to aid them.  The result, instead of confused and dirty children, or angry and dirty children, is a group of happy and clean kids, ready to dig into the Lovely Lady’s delicious dinner.

I am often struck at how the simple things, the everyday events, speak so powerfully to deeper truths.  As I consider the little ones and their dilemma, I can’t help but look in wonder at the parallels in our adult world.  Skilled laborers encourage as apprentices struggle to match the prowess of their mentors.  Teachers rack their brains to develop tools which will catch the imagination of their students and help them to progress.  In our churches, it should work in the same way.  It doesn’t always.  Frequently, we hear of mature leaders who berate those in the early stages of their walk for not living up to their standards.  How foolish!  Just as the example of the children, a little patience and a little help can go a long way toward motivating achievement.

For many years, I have been pleased and proud as customers have brought their guitars and violins to me to tune.  I once thought that it was a tribute to my ability, but I have been thinking in recent years that my willingness to perform that most basic of tasks again and again for aspiring musicians is actually a stumbling block to their advancement in the art.  I still tune for them, but now I subtly show them the shortcuts and techniques which I have used for most of my professional life.  It doesn’t cost me anything, but it benefits them immensely.  I could continue to perform the easy process for them, but they need to be able to do it for themselves.

How about it?  Do you have a little red footstool stored away somewhere?  Get it out and put it to use!  Do you have abilities, the secrets of which could benefit others?  Chances are good that you’ll be able to make someone’s life better by sharing your secrets.  Coincidentally, it doesn’t hurt any that in the process you make your own life easier, too.

Now, if I could just get those kids trained to set the table for me…

“This little stool is mine,
To use it all the time.
I reach the things I couldn’t
And lots of things I shouldn’t”

“On the contrary encourage one another, day after day, so long as To-day lasts, so that not one of you may be hardened through the deceitful character of sin.”
(Hebrews 3:13~Weymouth New Testament)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2012 All Rights Reserved. 

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