Friday, May 30, 2014

The Sentimentality of a Family Photo

The Sentimentality of a Family Photo
By Adam T. Gruver
Here, you see a colorful snapshot into the lives of a young boy and an older man. Their exchange of reverent smiles allows the viewers to assume these two people are well acquainted, maybe grandfather and grandson. The older gentleman holds the young boy up and looks into his eyes with a deep admiration. He uses both arms and the placement of his body to make sure the boy is safe and sturdy on the fence. The dog stands obediently at the man's feet, but pays no mind to the two main subjects of the photo or the camera person. His gaze and attention are fixated on some unknown element sitting outside the frame of vision. The landscape, although unfamiliar, is not seen well enough to make a fair supposition as to exactly where this photo was shot. However, an observer may be able to discern from the rust-covered, pipe fencing and the tattered corrugated-tin structure this photo was perhaps taken on an old farm or ranch. Being witness to sincere happiness makes it hard for an onlooker not to crack a smile. Without even knowing the people, a total stranger can appreciate the purity and simplicity caught in a moment such as this. The young boy has not yet lost his innocence, and the man is proud and willing to protect it. I am the child in this photo, long since grown up and faced with many trials and tribulations of life. The older man is my grandfather. It has been little more than a decade since his passing, and almost as long since my two feet have touched the arid, sandy soil of that old ranch. In fact, after five generations, it is no longer in the possession of my family. In my candor I also, regretfully, admit I was too young, and this happy occasion in the shade of an old oak tree has faded from my memory. Regardless, when I glance at this picture, I am content. Although the circumstances surrounding this particular photo may elude the grasp of my mind, individual aspects bring forth a flood of mixed emotions. Studying it now allows past thought and feelings to break free from the far corners of my subconscious where they had once been lost. I remember the old feeding pen in the pasture of my boyhood home in Texas, and a delighted smile emerges on my face. Growing up as an only child on a 60-acre ranch, I found imaginative ways of entertaining myself. I explored every inch of those fields throughout my childhood, and played and climbed on the old rusty construct like it was a jungle gym. Also, unbeknownst to the audience of this photo, there is a pond in the distant background and beyond that, a creek where I visited frequently. I would wander forever, fishing and blackberry-picking my way along the banks until the sun went down. Along with playful memories of childhood, looking at me as such a youngling sparks reflection upon a much simpler time. A child, at that age, has no concept of responsibility, nor is his mind weighed down with the worries of adulthood. The only thoughts that occupied my mind were those involving toys, candy, and maybe what cartoon I should watch. Those were great times but such ease and joyfulness are typically short-lived. The photograph brings about some less cheerful recollections as well. It was right around this me that the Sharpei, (Char-Lee) had left his mark on me. The thoughts forth from this aspect of the picture are slightly more disconcerting. He was a great dog, loyal, and obedient to the tooth. Unfortunately, he wasn't the most patient. At 18 months old, I was an energetic child, (A nature that can be oppositional to that of impatience). I was playing on the floor in the kitchen while Cha-Lee was at his bowl eating. Naively, I crawled up and attempted to get him to participate; he wanted no part. Char-Lee let out a growl to warn me for being too rambunctious in his space. Not understanding, I slapped him across the jowls, and in an instant my face was torn open from the corner of my right eye to the right corner of my mouth. He knew instantly that he had made a terrible mistake, and I knew, even then, I was at fault. Bleeding and crying, I surprisingly attempted to protect my dog from my own mother. Some say that children cannot form memories until three or four years of age, but I beg to differ. These images are burned into my brain forever. Even though this is my most pronounced memory of Char-Lee, nostalgic warmth is still felt when looking at him in this photo. My grandfather, (or Pawpaw, as we say in the south) is the final component of this image, and like the memory of Char-Lee, his is a bittersweet sentiment. I was seven years old. I had arrived home from school and, as always, went to say hello to my granddad. I opened the door to his room, and there he lay on the floor next to his bed. He had had a stroke and was barely conscious. I called 911 and, although my Pawpaw survived this brush with death, over the New Year he was moved to a nursing home, his health slowly diminished, and 2001 he passed away. These thoughts are brought to mind when looking at the photo, but I still smile. Pawpaw, to me, was larger than life, and although tears fill my eyes as I write these words, they are there in happy remembrance of a great man. A photograph of a young boy with a dog and his grandfather seems plain enough, but, like most things, there is always more than meets the eye. It may be a depiction of a simple, happy event, but pictures can often bring a lot of feeling to the surface. Even though some experiences may be less pleasant than others, all that matters is how we choose to remember them.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

On the first day of school the children brought gifts for their new teacher.

The supermarket manager's daughter brought the teacher a basket of assorted fruit. The florist's son brought the teacher a beautiful bouquet of flowers. The candy store owner's daughter gave the teacher a delicious box of candy. Then the liquor store owner's son brought up a big, heavy box. The teacher lifted it up and noticed that it was leaking a little bit. She touched a drop of the liquid with her finger and tasted it. "Is it bourbon?" she guessed. "Nope!" the boy replied. She tasted another drop and asked, "Scotch?" "Nope," replied the little boy, "it's a puppy!"

Job Listing - Gynecologist's Assistant

A retired man went into the Job Center in Downtown Houston, and saw a card advertising for a Gynecologist's Assistant. Interested, he went in and asked the clerk for details. The clerk pulled up the file and read; "The job entails getting the ladies ready for the gynecologist. You have to help the women out of their underwear, lay them down and carefully wash their private regions, then apply shaving foam and gently shave off the hair, then rub in soothing oils so they're ready for the gynecologist's examination. The annual salary is $65,000, and you'll have to go to Billings, Montana." "Good grief . . . Is that where the job is?" "No sir... that's where the end of the line is right now".

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A young guy from North Dakota moves to Florida and goes to a big "everything under one roof" department store looking for a job.

The Manager says, "Do you have any sales experience?" The kid says "Yeah. I was a vacuum salesman back in North Dakota." Well, the boss was unsure, but he liked the kid and figured he'd give him a shot, so he gave him the job. "You start tomorrow. I'll come down after we close and see how you did." His first day on the job was rough, but he got through it. After the store was locked up, the boss came down to the sales floor. "How many customers bought something from you today?" The kid frowns and looks at the floor and mutters, "One". The boss says "Just one?!!? Our sales people average sales to 20 to 30 customers a day. That will have to change, and soon, if you'd like to continue your employment here. We have very strict standards for our sales force here in Florida. One sale a day might have been acceptable in North Dakota, but you're not on the farm anymore, son." The kid took his beating, but continued to look at his shoes, so the boss felt kinda bad for chewing him out on his first day. He asked (semi-sarcastically), "So, how much was your one sale for?" The kid looks up at his boss and says "$101,237.65". The boss, astonished, says $101,237.65?!? What the heck did you sell?" The kid says, "Well, first, I sold him some new fish hooks. Then I sold him a new fishing rod to go with his new hooks. Then I asked him where he was going fishing and he said down the coast, so I told him he was going to need a boat, so we went down to the boat department and I sold him a twin engine Chris Craft. Then he said he didn't think his Honda Civic would pull it, so I took him down to the automotive department and sold him that 4x4 Expedition." The boss said "A guy came in here to buy a fish hook and you sold him a boat and a TRUCK!?" The kid said "No, the guy came in here to buy tampons for his wife, and I said, 'Dude, your weekend's shot, you should go fishing

Monday, May 12, 2014

See you in the New Jerusalem

I sat, with two friends, in the picture window of a quaint restaurant just off the corner of the town-square. The food and the company were both especially good that day. As we talked, my attention was drawn outside, across the street. There, walking into town, was a man who appeared to be carrying all his worldly goods on his back. He was carrying, a well-worn sign that read, 'I will work for food.' My heart sank. I brought him to the attention of my friends and noticed that others around us had stopped eating to focus on him. Heads moved in a mixture of sadness and disbelief. We continued with our meal, but his image lingered in my mind. We finished our meal and went our separate ways. I had errands to do and quickly set out to accomplish them. I glanced toward the town square, looking somewhat halfheartedly for the strange visitor. I was fearful, knowing that seeing him again would call some response. I drove through town and saw nothing of him. I made some purchases ata store and got back in my car. Deep within me, the Spirit of God kept speaking to me: 'Don't go back to the office until you've at least driven once more around the square.' Then with some hesitancy, I headed back into town. As I turned the square's third corner, I saw him. He was standing on the steps of the church, going through his sack. I stopped and looked; feeling both compelled to speak to him, yet wanting to drive on. The empty parking space on the corner seemed to be a sign from God: an invitation to park. I pulled in, got out and approached the town's newest visitor. 'Looking for the pastor?' I asked. 'Not really,' he replied, 'just resting.' 'Have you eaten today?' 'Oh, I ate something early this morning.' 'Would you like to have lunch with me?' 'Do you have some work I could do for you?' 'No work,' I replied 'I commute here to work from the city, but I would like to take you to lunch.' 'Sure,' he replied with a smile. As he began to gather his things, I asked some surface questions. Where you headed?' St. Louis' 'Where you from?' 'Oh, all over; mostly Florida ...' 'How long you been walking?' 'Fourteen years,' came the reply. I knew I had met someone unusual. We sat across from each other in the same restaurant I had left earlier. His face was weathered slightly beyond his 38 years. His eyes were dark yet clear, and he spoke with an eloquence and articulation that was startling He removed his jacket to reveal a bright red T-shirt that said, 'Jesus is The Never Ending Story.' Then Daniel's story began to unfold He had seen rough times early in life. He'd made some wrong choices and reaped the consequences. Fourteen years earlier, while backpacking across the country, he had stopped on the beach in Daytona... He tried to hire on with some men who were putting up a large tent and some equipment. A concert, he thought. He was hired, but the tent would not house a concert but revival services, and in those services he saw life more clearly. He gave his life over to God 'Nothing's been the same since,' he said, 'I felt the Lord telling me to keep walking, and so I did, some 14 years now.' 'Ever think of stopping?' I asked. 'Oh, once in a while, when it seems to get the best of me But God has given me this calling I give out Bibles, That's what's in my sack. I work to buy food and Bibles, and I give them out when His Spirit leads.' I sat amazed. My homeless friend was not homeless. He was on a mission and lived this way by choice. The question burned inside for a moment and then I asked: 'What's it like?' 'What?' 'To walk into a town carrying all your things on your back and to show your sign?' 'Oh, it was humiliating at first. People would stare and make comments. Once someone tossed a piece of half-eaten bread and made a gesture that certainly didn't make me feel welcome. But then it became humbling to realize that God was using me to touch lives and change people's concepts of other folks like me.' My concept was changing, too. We finished our dessert and gathered his things. Just outside the door, he paused He turned to me and said, 'Come Ye blessed of my Father and inherit the kingdom I've prepared for you. For when I was hungry you gave me food, when I was thirsty you gave me drink, a stranger and you took me in.' I felt as if we were on holy ground. 'Could you use another Bible?' I asked. He said he preferred a certain translation. It traveled well and was not too heavy. It was also his personal favorite.. 'I've read through it 14 times,' he said. 'I'm not sure we've got one of those, but let's stop by our church and see' I was able to find my new friend a Bible that would do well, and he seemed very grateful. 'Where are you headed from here?' I asked. 'Well, I found this little map on the back of this amusement park coupon.' 'Are you hoping to hire on there for a while?' 'No, I just figure I should go there. I figure someone under that star right there needs a Bible, so that's where I'm going next.' He smiled, and the warmth of his spirit radiated the sincerity of his mission. I drove him back to the town-square where we'd met two hours earlier, and as we drove, it started raining. We parked and unloaded his things. 'Would you sign my autograph book?' he asked... 'I like to keep messages from folks I meet.' I wrote in his little book that his commitment to his calling had touched my life. I encouraged him to stay strong. And I left him with a verse of scripture from Jeremiah, 'I know the plans I have for you, declared the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you; Plans to give you a future and a hope.' 'Thanks, man,' he said. 'I know we just met and we're really just strangers, but I love you.' 'I know,' I said, 'I love you, too.' 'The Lord is good!' 'Yes, He is. How long has it been since someone hugged you?' I asked. A long time,' he replied And so on the busy street corner in the drizzling rain, my new friend and I embraced, and I felt deep inside that I had been changed He put his things on his back, smiled his winning smile and said, 'See you in the New Jerusalem.' 'I'll be there!' was my reply. He began his journey again. He headed away with his sign dangling from his bedroll and pack of Bibles. He stopped, turned and said, 'When you see something that makes you think of me, will you pray for me?' 'You bet,' I shouted back, 'God Bless.' 'God Bless.' And that was the last I saw of him. Late that evening as I left my office, the wind blew strong. The cold front had settled hard upon the town. I bundled up and hurried to my car. As I sat back and reached for the emergency brake, I saw them... a pair of well-worn brown work gloves neatly laid over the length of the handle. I picked them up and thought of my friend and wondered if his hands would stay warm that night without them. Then I remembered his words: 'If you see something that makes you think of me, will you pray for me?' Today his gloves lie on my desk in my office.. They help me to see the world and its people in a new way, and they help me remember those two hours with my unique friend and to pray for his ministry. 'See you in the New Jerusalem,' he said. Yes, Daniel, I know I will... 'I shall pass this way but once. Therefore, any good that I can do or any kindness that I can show, let me do it now, for I shall not pass this way again.'