My friend and I stood at the end of the day, arms draped across the side of the old pickup we were leaning against, and wondered if we were going to succeed in life. Not an unusual occurrence for a couple of young men, ready to tackle life…but this happened yesterday, not twenty years ago, so you could be forgiven if you were to express doubts about the ability of these two slightly-older-than-middle aged men to effect much of a change in the course of events at this late date. It might even be said that if we’ve waited this late to begin, there is no chance at all of success in life for us.
We weren’t discussing financial success, nor even social prominence. Neither Mike nor I aspire to the spotlight anymore. He has run a profitable auto repair business and opted to close it in favor of the simplicity of a salaried position with a large dealership; I have operated a family music store for more than twenty-five years and am finally accepting the title of “successful businessman”, although I balk at the definition of success in that context. What we are realizing is that time is getting short and we still have some ground to cover in other areas.
I remember the after-school softball games we played in the vacant lot down the street, when I was a kid. There was not a single real player among us, but we loved the thrill of hearing the ball smack off the end of the old wooden bat and the run to first base (a flattened cardboard box), then a long rounded-off turn toward second base (Oscar’s tee-shirt). If we made it that far, we were bound to try for third base (which was just an old abandoned red ant bed) and stretch for home. The games went for an hour or two, but were made longer by the arguments about balls and strikes and tag-outs. We would play (and argue) for as long as we could see, but the arguments ceased abruptly when somebody called out, “Hey, the light is going! Let’s play some ball!” The action would speed up, pitches were thrown without much ado between, and the runners were more likely than ever to attempt to make a so-so hit turn into extra bases or even a home run. The light was going! We had more playing to do!
I will admit that it does seem that time is being compressed for me. I have also realized something else. When I was a young man, I wanted to effect big changes in the world. I have concluded that big change may not be my legacy. Come to think of it, the changes I make may not touch much of the world. That said, I still want to be an influence on the people with whom I come into contact in my lifetime. If the context broadens as the years pass, that will be okay. Regardless, I have a task to do and time is speeding by. I do want to be a success.
Do you remember that song we used to sing years ago? You know…the one that told us to “brighten the corner where you are.” The lady who wrote that song had wanted to serve as a missionary in a far-away land, but family illness forced her to stay near to home. She served right where she was instead, and wrote the words as a reminder to others who found themselves in similar situations.
As my friend and I talked yesterday, we reminisced about another such servant. Miss Peggy had a heart for the Chinese people and wanted to go and teach there. But, that was in the late 1930s, and it was not to be. The political unrest in China guaranteed that a single lady would not be supported by any mission board, so Miss Peggy made a trade. She took over the vision of a man who had planned to teach Bible classes to kids in the Ozark Mountains and he took over her vision in China. She never wavered in her service, nor in her love of China, making sure to befriend every Chinese exchange student who came to the local university.
Several years before her death, she was in the home of a Chinese family she had “adopted” and was shown an old family Bible, rescued from the Communist persecutors of their home country (the man’s father had been thrown into prison for preaching). Due to her poor eyesight, she asked the host to read some of the notes and signatures in the front of the book. As he read past one particular one, she shouted, “Stop! Read that again!” The name was of her “substitute” on the mission field. Her friend had been influential in members of this man’s family coming to faith, as well as being an encouragement during their persecution at the hands of government officials. Do you think it was just a coincidence that, out of the millions of people in that huge country, this particular family had ended up with this little lady sitting in their living room, listening to them read the names in their family Bible? Perhaps not.
If this isn’t encouragement to “brighten the corner where you are”, you may be beyond help! It may not be in such a dramatic manner, but our faithful walk in the path set before us will undoubtedly yield results. Even if the only consequence is that our family and friends see the consistency and commitment of a life lived with integrity and faith, our legacy will live on. I’m not sure how you define success, but I think that will do for me.
But, enough of this talking. The light is going and I’m still in the game! Let’s play some ball!
“Brighten the corner where you are,
Brighten the corner where you are.
Someone far from harbor you may guide across the bar.
Brighten the corner where you are.”
(Ina Mae Duly Ogden~American teacher and songwriter~1872-1964)
“The greatest waste in all of our earth, which cannot be recycled or reclaimed, is our waste of the time that God has given us each day.”
(Billy Graham~American evangelist)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2012. All Rights Reserved.