I knew he was going to attempt to sell me something before he said a word. Well, before he said five words.
He shifted his leather valise (my first clue) from one hand to the other, as he reached out for mine.
I’m looking for Mister Phillips.
Why do they call me mister when they want something? My customers, even the teenagers, call me Paul. I like that; it feels like we’re on equal footing.
Mister Phillips, I know you’re a busy man, so I’ll get right to the point. . .
The contents of the valise scattered about on my counter, the fellow began his pitch. I want it understood that this was not my first time at bat. When he offered a home run ball, I declined. I’d rather tap the bunt, thanks.
You see, the man is selling a dead product. Well—it’s nearly dead. He wants to sell me an ad for the telephone book.
A telephone book.
Remember when the phone book was the most important source of information available? For a hundred years, it was an indispensable tool for professionals from every walk of life.
The police department used it as much as the sales community. Delivery boys needed its information, as did churches and schools. No home or business would be without the local phone book.
That was true for the better part of a century.
The Internet has replaced the phone directory. Databases the likes of which would have been incomprehensible to the brains of mid-twentieth-century computer scientists are carried around in our shirt pockets.
Need a number? Touch one button.
Directions to an address? Watch the screen and listen to the computer-generated voice.
Buy a telephone directory ad? Not likely! Well, perhaps a small one. You never know. Some of my customers might still be stuck in the twentieth century.
It’s true. Old habits die hard. The Baby Boomer generation—of which I am a part—is made up of stubborn folks. For all the changes we have seen—or even been responsible for—there is a remnant of us who refuse to budge.
All around us, change is happening at the speed of light. Technology, societal norms, scientific discoveries, even medical treatments—all these and more are almost unrecognizable from two or three decades ago.
For those of us who are reaching that certain age, there is a propensity to simply shrug our shoulders and ignore all change. We can’t decide which is good and which is bad. And besides, who can figure out those strange new devices anyway?
I hear my Grandfather’s voice, even as I write. Grandpa was born in 1902, at the start of a new century. He watched the flying machines soar through the air. I can’t believe that his imagination didn’t, at some point in his life, take to the air as well. Still, you’d never know it to listen to the words.
If God had meant for men to fly, He would have given us wings!
He was an intelligent man. Not altogether unlike many I know around me today.
They’re the very same ones using phone books.
Oh. I’ve stepped on some toes here, haven’t I?
I’m not preaching; really, I’m not. I just know that we need to live in the world our Creator has given us, thriving in the time in which He placed us.
I want to be a steward, faithful to use the tools placed in my hands for the task I’ve been assigned.
The Apostle, intent on fulfilling his own commission, averred that he would become all things to all people if, in doing so, he could win at least some. (1 Corinthians 9:21-22)
I’m not sure the words but I was old will be an acceptable excuse when we reach our eternal home.
Our Creator has instilled in us a natural curiosity, a desire to learn, that burns in our core from the cradle to the grave. It is only through our sloth and love of ease that we divest ourselves of the ability to learn new things.
It hurts when I push the strings down.
The lady, a middle-aged grandmother, stood in front of me with the guitar she had purchased only days before. She was quitting. It was too hard.
It’s supposed to hurt. That’s how your fingers get toughened up, so you can play longer.
I could have been more sensitive in my explanation, but she needed the truth. Learning is hard. It always has been.
When the learning is complete, then comes the sense of accomplishment, the knowledge that we pushed on through the pain and finished our task.
It’s worth it.
One of my young friends wanted to show me his new skill the other day. He beckoned me out to the parking lot at the music store and, reaching behind the seat of his pickup truck, drew out a unicycle.
No, not the kind clowns ride in the parades. This was a powered unicycle. It did have only one wheel, but there was a powerful motor that drove the wheel while he stood with his feet on either side of it upon small metal platforms.
Zipping around the lot, between cars and then, zig-zagging in and out, around the flower pots on the sidewalk, he simply stood and let the single wheel beneath him carry him wherever he guided it. I was amazed.
I wanted to do it. He looked at this nearly sixty-year-old before him and shook his head adamantly.
No. I don’t think so. It took me awhile to get it figured out. I fell down. A lot.
As he stood there, I bent down to examine the contraption. It was battered and bent. I thought he had told me it was nearly new. I asked him about the damage.
That’s from all the times I fell down. Again and again. I got back on it every time. Totally worth it. Totally.
With that, my young friend stepped back on the death trap (funny how perception changes) and sped around the lot a time or two more before tossing it back in his truck. Then, waving goodbye to the jealous old man standing in front of his music store, he headed for home.
Did you get that? Totally worth it, he said. Every bruise, every skinned knee, even the sprained shoulder. Worth it.
The Lovely Lady has made it clear that no funds are available for a unicycle, nor will they be—ever. I get it.
Still, there is so much to do—so much to learn.
What a great adventure our Creator has placed before us!
You can keep using your phone book if you want.
I’m moving on ahead.
He’s got more.
Because, this is a very great adventure, and no danger seems to me so great as that of knowing when I get back to Narnia that I left a mystery behind me through fear.
(Reepicheep in Voyage of the Dawn Treader ~ C.S. Lewis ~ 1898-1963)
Do you not know that all the runners in a stadium compete, but only one receives the prize? So run to win.
(1 Corinthians 9:24 ~ NET)
© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2016. All Rights Reserved.