Sunday, May 25, 2008

It Was the Best of Times. It Was the Worst of Times.

I discovered the writings of Charles Dickens as a young student at BYU many years ago.
I would say my two favorite books written by Dickens are "Great Expectations," and "A Tale of Two Cities." I have felt at times like many of you I am sure, that the opening lines of Dickens', "A Tale of Two Cities," are very descriptive of most of our lives. "It was the best of times, it was the worst of was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us..."

Life is very dynamic and ever changing. It is never static, and the best of times can quickly become the worst of times, while our spring of hope can be turned into a winter of despair. Often times these seemingly polar opposites are found operating simultaneously in our lives.

I was thinking back about the six long months I spent at Rancho Los Amigos Rehabilitation Hospital immediately following my accident 19 years ago. A season of hope had been turned into a winter of despair in a split second, and I thought at the time that the best of times had all of a sudden become the worst of times. Instead of having everything ahead of me I could see nothing ahead and light had turned into blackness. However, even during that season of darkness, there were brilliant flashes of light that dispelled the gloom and hopelessness and made the worst of times the best of times, even if for just short periods of time. Let me explain.

There was an African American nurse that worked the night shift from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. about three nights each week. She radiated a spirit of love and light that penetrated my dark world every time she was with me. Every morning before she would leave to go home, knowing that with the shift change I would probably not see another nurse for at least an hour, she would get a basin full of hot water and with a washcloth she would wash and massage my face in a most loving and caring way. It was not doctor's orders and no other nurse ever thought to do it... but she did, and she did it every morning she was there. No one can know how good that felt, especially when you can't feel anything in your entire body except your face and the top of your head. But as good as it felt physically it even felt better emotionally to have someone, really a stranger, show that kind of love and concern.

Another flash of light that always brought hope and made the worst of times a good time was the care given to me by an African-American nurse's aide. He was a big man, muscular, an Afro hairdo, ear rings, various tattoos, and a loud voice. You wouldn't want to meet him in a dark alley late at night. Poor Jo Anne was afraid to leave the hospital that first night that he was to be a participant in my care. How true it is that looks can be deceiving. I was never treated with such respect, kindness, and tenderness by anyone at Rancho than by him. He couldn't do enough for me. I always rejoiced when I realized he was to be my helper during a 12 hour period. It was obvious to me that what he was doing was not being done out of a sense of duty but out of love and deep concern for me and the other young men in our spinal cord injury unit. He had a great sense of humor and made me feel good in spite of myself and the trauma I was going through.

My physical therapist at Rancho was a little, barely 5 foot tall girl, with blond hair who had the heart and spirit of a tiger. She pushed me, never showed pity for me, and worked me as hard as she could each time she came into my room. She gave me exercises I was to do to strengthen my neck muscles and would accept no lame excuse for not doing them religiously. I can still hear her footsteps in my mind marching down the corridor to my room. Had she been in the Army she would have surely been a general. She was my advocate and cut through the bureaucracy and red tape of the county facility I was in, and while my roommates and others in the spinal cord injury unit were still languishing in bed, she had me up racing through the corridors of the hospital terrorizing everyone in sight in a mega, breath control power wheelchair. When I left the hospital and sadly said goodbye to my two roommates who had been at the hospital months before I got there and wouldn't leave for months after I left, it just didn't seem fair they didn't have my same physical therapist. She kindled a light inside me through her toughness and no-nonsense approach to my care, and made me believe in myself and that maybe I could have some kind of life even in my paralyzed condition if I were willing to work hard enough.

These, and many other experiences I have had throughout my lifetime, have helped me to realize that there are going to be seasons of light and dark, hope and despair, times when we feel we have everything before us and then suddenly nothing. We can't control circumstances but we do have the power to not let our individual circumstances control us.
I believe one of the important things that helps us through the hard times and keeps us from succumbing to the circumstances life brings to all of us is what I choose to call the lovingkindness manifest to us by others -- the kind of loving kindness I experienced at Rancho.

I use the word lovingkindness because I think it is more descriptive than the words charity or love, although all these words are synonyms describing the "pure love of Christ." The word lovingkindness is used numerous times throughout the Scriptures to describe God. The vast majority of the references come from the book of Psalms. For example: "Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee." [Psalm 63:3] "How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings" [Psalms 36:7]

The lovingkindness manifest to me by so many during my lifetime has always helped to make the worst of times the best of times, and magically turned seasons of darkness into seasons of light. Perhaps the greatest gift we can give one another, given the challenges and problems we all face, is simply to treat all with whom we interact, especially family members, with lovingkindness.


Saturday, May 10, 2008


When our daughter Rachel, was in elementary school, her mother would frequently dress her in a little pink T-shirt that had three words emblazoned on the front in a feminine script made out of some kind of girlish, silvery, glittery material. The three words were: "Girls Are Smarter!" Every time I would see that message on my little daughter I would kind of wince because I knew the truth of it. Also, had she chosen to do so, Jo Anne could have dressed Rachel in a little pink T-shirt with a different message for each day of the week like: "Girls Are Kinder," "Girls Are Sweeter," "Girls Are Special," and the list could go on and on.
I know that gender was determined in the pre-earth life when we were organized from "intelligence" by God to become either men or women. I rather suspect that he took all of the high-grade intelligence -- the most intelligent, most compassionate, and most kind, from which he created "women" to be the mothers of mankind. From what was left over he created man. By the way, this is Jack Rushton doctrine and should not be mistaken for gospel truth.

The children of good mothers are blessed throughout their lives and have their characters shaped and molded because of the qualities and character traits that are an inherent and integral part of womanhood and motherhood.
The women in my life, my great grandmothers, grandmothers, mother, and the mother of my children have all had a great impact for good upon their posterity, and upon me in particular, because of the womanly qualities and character traits with which they have all been so abundantly blessed.

Of all the multitude of virtues I could mention that these great women possessed that have blessed my life I will only mention one in this observation. It is a character trait possessed by all of these women that I have grown to treasure and value as it has impacted my life for good.

Let me introduce this quality or character trait that has impacted my life so much by sharing with you a brief experience from my mother's autobiography.
"Mother was expecting her eighth child. Papa went to the cedars to get a load of wood. It was a short while before Christmas. They were both thirty seven years old at this time. It was in 19l6. When papa came home he didn't feel at all well. He had terrific cramps and became seriously ill. I remember Mama and Louisa (her oldest sister) went to Hinckley in the buggy to get our Christmas presents and I stayed home with Papa, I had an earache. He was sitting by the stove and I sat at his feet with my head on his lap. I know how he must have felt being so ill and watching for mama to come home. He had me go out and climb up in a tree to see if I could see them coming home." (He had a ruptured appendix and with no doctor available out in the country -- they lived in the little farming community of Abraham, near Delta, Utah -- Halley, his wife and my grandmother, took him to Salt Lake City to a hospital on the train on Christmas day.) "He passed away on January 12, 1917. He was buried on January 14, 1917 at Hinckley, Millard County, Utah. It was just a month to the day before my tenth birthday. What a sad, sad family. I will never forget the funeral and my papa lying there so cold and white. All seven of us sat together in frightened solemn silence. It was our first experience with death and it seemed so final."

My grandmother was resourceful, tenacious, and hard-working and was able to keep the family together. The kids all worked hard on the farm. Halley, my grandmother, was the postmistress, a midwife, and through this job and what the farm produced, was able to sustain her large family.

My mother, as well as her seven brothers and sisters, knew how to work and work hard. This character trait was and is possessed in rich abundance by all the women in my life. You may think it a strange character trait to highlight but not really.
These women were strong, resourceful, and understood the "law of the harvest" which is we reap what we sow. They didn't moan, wallow in self-pity, give up, or ever think that the state or Church should take care of them when tragedy struck unexpectedly. They only knew one way -- work hard!

My mother tried hard to pass on to her boys this work ethnic character trait by both precept and example. I believe her efforts were successful.My brothers and I all received the same message from her: "Go to college! Don't end up working in the mines!" We somehow got the message because all four of us graduated from BYU and went on to receive graduate degrees as well. We weren't very smart but our mother taught us to work hard.

Mom taught us integrity in doing our work. When we scrubbed our linoleum floors on our hands and knees under her direction, she always made sure we got the corners. We learned how to do dishes the right way -- her way! She kept me working at the piano and taking lessons until it eventually evolved from an onerous daily task to something I truly began to love. I learned much more than just music -- I learned how to work hard and stay with something challenging until I had achieved a goal.

My mom was smart. A philosopher once said that no man can ever fully recover from the ignorance of his mother. This is a negative statement but at the same time I believe it is very true. Mom put the backbone into us as well as the work ethic. Every day as I am able to sit at my computer and work for hours on end I have to thank my mother for her example of working hard and with integrity and blessing me with her work ethic.
Jo Anne, like my mother and grandmothers, has been blessed with a great work ethic and integrity in all she does. The oldest daughter in a family of 10 children she had great responsibility placed upon her shoulders as a very young girl. A visiting young cousin who didn't know the family really well observed Jo Anne -- age 12 or 13 at the time -- working around the house, cooking, cleaning, etc., and said to her, "How much do they pay you for working here?"

Jo Anne has been an incredible example to me and to her children of living the law of the harvest and of working hard and with integrity. She has encouraged me to work hard and has never tolerated me using my physical condition as an excuse for not being productive. What a blessing! She has given me many psychological kicks in an unmentionable part of my anatomy that has made me work hard and do and achieve things I never would have attempted without her encouragement and example.

Jo Anne, like all the women in my life thankfully, can be best described by two phrases: "True Grit," and "Pure Gold."Without these smart, sensitive, kind, compassionate, and hard-working women in our lives I am afraid most of us men wouldn't amount to much. How grateful I am that God created woman, and if you read the creation account carefully it was his crowning and most significant creation. How right he was in knowing "... it is not good that man should be alone."

" And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be aalone; I will make him ban help meet for him... she shall be called bWoman, because she was taken out of Man...And Adam called his wife’s name Eve; because she was the amother of all living." [Genesis 2: 18, 22-23, 3: 20]