Monday, January 23, 2012

Do What You Can With What You Have, Where You Are

Monday, January 23, 2012
"Do What You Can With What You Have, Where You Are"

Last week, one of my good friends, Tom Judson, a 40 year teacher of government and world history at Orange high school, knowing of my love for reading biographies of great people, suggested that I read the book, "Unbroken." It is the biography of Louie Zamperini, from Torrance, California, who ran in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin as a 19-year-old, became involved in World War II, was captured by the Japanese and suffered incredible hardships without giving up or giving in. I have only read the first three chapters, but have already been impressed by the young Louie. I can hardly wait to read the remainder of the book, and i am grateful that Tom recommended it to me.

A few years ago I was watching BYU TV and listened to President Gordon B. Hinckley speak to the BYU student body at their weekly devotional. It was one of the last talks he gave before passing away. I was impressed that at age 96 he was still able to speak with such intelligence and clarity. It was his opening remarks that caught my attention. He said that on one occasion, Ralph Waldo Emerson, was asked what books he had read that had influenced him the most. Emerson replied that he could no more remember all the books he had read than the meals he had eaten, but they had made him what he was.

As I reflected on what Emerson said, as quoted by President Hinckley, it struck a chord within me as being a true statement. I suppose all of us are shaped, not only by the meals we eat, but by the books we read, or maybe don't read.

I have been blessed in my lifetime to have been exposed to some of the greatest books ever written which certainly have shaped my thinking and even my behavior I believe. As I look back over my life, it is the Scriptures that have impacted my life the most. My favorite reading these days is in the Scriptures – especially the Book of Mormon. I gain vital daily spiritual strength from my reading this Book. I could hardly get through a day without this Book of Books.

My mother introduced me to many great books as a young boy, and then I met Dr. Nan Grass while attending BYU, who for an entire two semesters, five days a week, taught me to love the great literature of the English language in her marvelous course, "Major British Authors". Through her guidance I began to love the writings of Shakespeare, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Browning, Lord Byron, Matthew Arnold, John Milton, John Donne, Chaucer, and a host of others.

And then, still a young man, I came to Southern California in 1970 to be the institute director at the Institute of Religion at California State University at Los Angeles. I was able to determine what I would teach and one of the first classes I chose to teach at the Institute level was entitled "Presidents of the Church". At that time there was a very meager lesson manual for that course which was a great blessing because it forced me to read a biography on each one of the presidents we would be discussing. This began a passion that I still have to read biographies of great people. I would read the biography of one of the Church Presidents and then around the dinner table each evening I would tell my little children stories from the lives of the prophets. They were a very receptive audience and came to know a great deal about the presidents of the Church. Little did they know how much they were helping me to teach my Institute class by trying out stories from the lives of the prophets on them.

The lives of these great men, along with the great literature I had been reading, shaped my thinking and inspired me to always want to be a better person. I am always looking for good biographies to read. How blessed I have been to not only read the biographies of great Church leaders, but also of men like George Washington, John Adams, Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Theodore Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, Harry S. Truman, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and many others as well.
Since my accident and loss of physical mobility I have also come to love history, and through my reading have witnessed the building of the Panama Canal, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Transcontinental Railroad, been on the Lewis and Clarke expedition, circumnavigated the globe with Magellan, experienced the incredible year of 1776 and Washington's crossing of the Delaware, seen World War II through the eyes of a "Band of Brothers", and on and on it goes. How dull and boring my life could be if it were not for the magic of reading.
Through my reading, one of my favorite historical characters has become Theodore Roosevelt. I am just amazed at this man. I think my subconscious self would like to be like Theodore Roosevelt. I have read a number of books on his life.

Some time ago. I came across a not so well known book about Theodore Roosevelt written by a lady by the name of Candice Millard and is entitled "The River of Doubt". Not being elected president in 1912, he accepted an invitation to go to South America to do some speaking, on the condition that he could also do some exploring as well. He was 55 years old at the time. This book about his adventures and adversity in traveling down a river ("The River of Doubt") in Brazil that no one had explored and was not even on a map is exciting and reveals so much about the character of this great man. He suffered greatly in the vast Amazon rain forest (1913-14) and died a few years later, much younger than he would have had he not taken this trip.

Theodore Roosevelt had traveled extensively in his lifetime. He led his Roughriders up San Juan Hill in Cuba, had fought grizzly bears, had a big cattle ranch in the Dakotas, and was tough as nails. I think his trip to Brazil tempered him somewhat and taught him a great lesson about life, as evidenced by a statement he made near the end of his life. "Do what you can, with what you have, where you are." [Theodore Roosevelt, 26th president of the United States, 1858-1919]

Having studied his life, this statement appears to me to be so untypical of this adventurous and vital man. However, I believe any human being who learns to do what he can, with what he has, where he is, has discovered one of the great keys to a happy and fulfilling life.
I believe I have tried to adopt Roosevelt's philosophy into my own life since my accident. I haven't always been successful in doing so, but those days that I do all I can, with what I have, where I am, are rewarding and fulfilling days.

Although my body is mobility impaired, through the magic of reading, my mind knows no limits. Through reading I have become acquainted with some of the greatest people with the best minds that have ever lived, and have vicariously experienced many of the world's most important events in history. Isn't it incredible what 26 little letters in our alphabet can do?


Friday, January 6, 2012

Grandpas miracle

This short essay was written by my 12-year-old granddaughter, Annie Rushton. She wrote it for one of her classes in school. I think you will enjoy her take on my near death experience, last May.


Grandpa`s Miracle
In 1989, my grandfather, Jack Rushton, was body surfing at Laguna Beach and broke his neck. He has been a quadriplegic for the last twenty-two years. Despite being paralyzed, my grandfather, along with my grandmother, has been very supportive of me and my three siblings. For example, they come from Orange County to my family`s soccer games, choir events, birthday parties, or just to visit. My grandparents have been very involved in my life. I know they love me and are proud of me. I love them with all my heart.
Four months ago, I found myself sitting on my colorful be will d doing homework. My grandfather had been in the hospital for two weeks at the time, not able to talk or interact. The phone rang loudly to be heard by all. A couple of minutes after being answered, I walked into my mom`s room to see her crying.
“What`s wrong?” I asked concerned.
“That was Dad on the phone,” Mom said while wiping a tear off her cheek.
“What`d he say? Did he call from the hospital?” I asked curiously.
“Yes, and he said that the doctors did a lot of tests on Grandpa and they just found out that he has brain damage. They said he won`t ever be the same. He won`t talk. He won`t wake up and they said we should just let him die.”
I just sat there. I was in too much shock to truly believe what my mother was saying. I did not want to just stand by and wait for my grandfather`s death to pass. I wished there was something we could do. I did not want to say good bye to him. Not now. Not ever. I then cried along with my mother in disbelief.
My entire family on my dad`s side agreed we would wait a few weeks before letting my grandpa die to make sure the unthinkable was true. Since my family took shifts to care for my grandfather, my mom and I decided we should go watch him for a couple of hours. I had a soccer game all the way in Orange County, so afterwards we would go visit him in the hospital.
At 10:00a.m., we parked next to the dozens of cars already at the hospital. I could not help notice how many windows the blue and white building had. Much more than fifteen rectangular holes were neatly carved out of the boring hospital. On the front of the structure all I could see were big letters spelling out the words, “Kaiser Permanente, Irvine”. As I walked inside the building through revolving doors, in the corner I saw a tan woman with oval glasses sitting behind a desk typing on the computer in front of her. The walls were painted yellow and there were square pieces of tile implanted as the floor. My mom and I stepped inside the elevator across the room. My mom pressed the button with a three on it, the doors closed, and the elevator lifted us to the third floor. We exited the contraption and strolled to the room which my grandpa was staying in. The room was a perfect square with walls and a ceiling attached. It had a bed which my grandpa was laying in, at least five chairs, a T.V. attached to the wall, a refrigerator, and a cot on the other side of Grandpa. My uncle, John, and his girlfriend, Jessica, were both occupying two of the chairs. Grandpa was laying on the bed with many wires attached to his body, nose, and his bed. My mom and I greeted them both and then I hopped on top of the cot. My mom sat across from John and Jessica on a chair.
“How is he?” My mom questioned John.
“He`s been sleeping all morning.” He replied.
“I’m going to try to wake him up.” My mom stated. She walked toward his bed. “Hi Dad, it’s me, Kim. Annie is here with me. We just came from her soccer game in Tustin.” My grandpa opened his blue eyes like a baby opening its eyes for the very first time.
“Let`s feed him some ice chips. He`ll like that more than the I.V,” John said while pulling up a clear and small plastic bowl full of crushed ice chips. He grabbed a spoon and held up a scoop to Grandpa`s lips. His mouth quivered at the coldness. The ice chips disappeared in his mouth. He was actually eating. I`m sure he loved having the taste in his mouth.
An hour after that, John and Jessica left to go grab something to eat. I was very bored. I was not having the most fun playing on John`s lap top so I started playing around. When my mom was feeding Grandpa some ice chips, I was making silly faces, dancing and jumping behind her. Grandpa`s eyes slowly turned towards me. My mom noticed where his eyes were going and she looked behind her and saw me making a pig face. She gave me a look as if I were an alien from space. I looked back at her and sat down. Then she proceeded to feed grandpa. I couldn`t help but act silly again, but when she looked back I sat down before she noticed a second time. I stood on a chair so I could see Grandpa and so he could see me. My mom glanced back at me.
“Sing him a song.” My mom requested. Okay, I thought, I could do that. So, I sang three beautiful songs that I learned and memorized from my choir class at school to my grandpa. I could tell that he loved my performance. Before I could sing a fourth song, Grandpa started making very funny noises. He grunted and yelled the strangest sounds I have ever heard. He was trying to talk! My grandma had just arrived and entered the room during the musical performance. She was overjoyed to hear her husband make sounds and eat ice chips.
“Annie, sing some more! I want to hear you too,” my grandma exclaimed. So, I repeated a few more songs, hovering above my grandparents on the chair, which had become my stage. Again, my grandfather let out a loud garbled sound.
“I think he is trying to talk!” my mom and Grandma both said at once. “He really likes your singing, Annie.” My mom immediately called my Dad, and all of my aunts and uncles, yelling, “You won’t believe what’s happening! Dad is trying to talk! Annie was standing on a chair singing to Dad and he started making sounds. It’s a miracle!”
The nurse came in and took care of grandpa. Everyone was so happy. At about 4:00p.m Mom and I left to our home in Murrieta. The next day, the entire family returned to the hospital. My grandpa was awake and talking in full sentences. It truly was a miracle. The doctors said they have never been so happy to be wrong. They could not believe it. All the tests pointed to my grandpa’s brain being damaged. My dad even saw all the tests being done and he believed what the doctors had said. Now, my grandpa was talking and seemed to be back to himself.
Two weeks later, my grandpa was let out of the hospital. He is now alive today in Orange County in his wheel chair moving around, talking, and being the exact same person he was before the brain damage, maybe even better. It seems his brain has been rebooted like a computer and he is as sharp as a tack.
I love my grandparents so much. I am glad to say I`m seeing him once a month or more for special occasions. I know my grandpa loves me and I love him. Everyone in our family is so thankful that we wanted to wait, to pray and to have faith that God could make a miracle happen. We do not k now how exactly, but we do know that something special happened to bring my grandfather back from a brain damaged state to being my wonderful grandfather again. I am proud to be his granddaughter and I am so happy he is here today.

I May Never Pass This Way Again

I have a number of friends still alive, I am happy to report, who were born approximately when I was. When I write them and wish them a happy birthday, I always tell them that I am one person they will never hear complaining about getting older. I believe getting older is better than the alternative! I always say it's better to be "seen" than to be "viewed."
I definitely feel, not in a morbid way, that I am quickly and inevitably rolling down the home stretch of life approaching the finish line of mortality. It causes me to reflect on my life and what good I may or may not have done.

Many years ago, when I was the Institute director at the Cerritos, California, Institute of Religion, part of my duties included being the general manager of a patriotic singing group, sponsored by the Institute, called "The Grand Land Singers." They performed all over the United States, and I truly enjoyed the four years I spent with them. I left that assignment in the late 70s, but I can still remember several of the songs the group sang at almost every performance. One that I think a great deal about as I grow older is: "I May Never Pass This Way Again." It was written by Murray Wizel and Irving Melcher. The artist who made it famous was Perry Como. Some of you old guys may remember it. The lyrics are as follows:

"I'll give my hand to those who cannot see the sunshine or the fallin' rain.
I'll sing my song to cheer the weary along,
For I may never pass this way again!
I'll share my faith with every troubled heart, so I shall not have lived in vain.
I'll give my hand, I'll sing my song,
I'll share my faith, because I know, that the time is now to fulfill each vow,
For I may never pass this way again!"

Those beautiful lyrics, to me anyway, penetrate my heart as I ponder what I have done with these precious years I have spent on this earth. I know that as we finally cross the finish line of mortality and enter the Spirit World, all of the worldly possessions, high profile positions in the world and the Church, degrees, and the honors of men, won't amount to anything!

The Savior passed "this way" of mortality but once, and demonstrated to us what our priorities should be. I believe Christ's mission was twofold: (1) to fulfill the Law of Moses, to work out the infinite atonement, and to teach his Gospel. (2) But also to bless the lives of his brothers and sisters during the brief time he was with them by healing their souls – body and spirit. [
In my study of the four Gospels, I have discovered, as many others have as well, I am sure, that much of Christ's ministry was not spent just in teaching but in healing the sick and afflicted. I have discovered there are 53 references which use the word heal, or a derivative thereof such as healing or healed when referring to the Savior's blessing the sick. There are also an additional three references using the words cure or cured. These references do not include the times he raised the dead, or gave sight to the blind. I am sure what we have recorded in the Gospels is but the tip of the iceberg, with regard the healing part of his ministry.
In reading these accounts, I have been impressed by two things: (1) what a large part of the Savior's ministry was spent in healing the souls of his brothers and sisters; and (2) the great compassion he had for them.

I love Dr. Elaine Marshall’s (former Dean of the BYU College of Nursing) summary from the scriptures of this aspect of the Savior’s ministry.
“As Jesus healed, the scriptures say, "All the people were amazed" (Matthew 12:23). They brought their sick, their "blind, and dumb" (Matthew 12:22), those that were "possessed with a devil" (Matthew 12:22; also Mark 1:32), and their dead. They sought Him every day and into the evening. So great was His reputation and His healing power that they sought to "only touch the hem of his garment; and as many as touched were made perfectly whole" (Matthew 14:36). "And Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching . . . and preaching the gospel . . . , and healing every sickness and every disease among the people" (Matthew9:35).”(April, 2004 Ensign, 57.)

It is a daunting task to seek to follow Christ's example of love and compassion to those with special needs who are all about us. Knowing "we will never pass this way again," however, what better way can we, or should we, use these few fleeting and fragile hours of mortality than to try to emulate the example of the Master Healer?
Believe it or not this is a Christmas letter. Truly celebrating the birth of Christ and his subsequent mortal mission, it seems to me can best be done by committing ourselves to follow His example of compassion, love, and desire to bless even "the least of these our brethren" who surround us on every side.

At the final judgment day, when the sheep are gathered together by the Good Shepherd on His right hand, He will say to them, "…Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison ,and ye came unto me… Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." [Matthew 25:31-46 – Emphasis added]
Merry Christmas!


What Lack I yet?

We are very fortunate indeed if we, in our lifetimes, have a good friend or family member, who will be perfectly honest with us when we solicit their feedback. My dear wife, Joanne, is one of those people. I can always count on her to tell me the truth when I ask her opinion regarding a talk I have prepared, or something I have written, or a lesson I have given. Many times over the years, I have had to swallow my male ego and pride as I have asked for her opinion – and have received it!
For example, one Christmas I was asked to speak at a Ward in our stake. I prepared what I thought was a wonderful talk, and had felt great inspiration as I did so. I then had Joanne read what I had prepared and asked her what she thought of it. She was silent for some time, which is always a bad sign, and then said, "Do you really want to know?" I gulped and said, "Go ahead." She then proceeded to tell me that my talk was a very good Education Week talk at BYU, but was just not going to cut it in a sacrament meeting. She told me that I would lose the children and teenagers who would be attending, in about one minute. My first human and male response to such feedback is to get defensive and almost angry. How could anyone find fault with my inspired and well-crafted message? Thankfully, I had the good sense to swallow my pride, and told her I would think about what she had said. As I thought about it, I realized that she was right – and that is what is so infuriating – she always seems to be right. It reminded me of the little pink T-shirt she bought for our daughter Rachel when she was in about the third or fourth grade that had emblazoned on the front in silvery script letters, "Girls Are Smarter!" I have lived long enough to sadly come to realize the truthfulness of that statement.
Well, I went to work and spent hours preparing an acceptable talk. I finally presented it to Joanne, who quickly read through it and said, "This is better, but you are not quite there yet." I began to defend myself and my precious work, but fortunately thought better of it and humbly went back to the drawing board. Finally, because of Joanne's reaction to my work, I did a lot of pondering and praying about what would be more appropriate than I had already prepared. New ideas came flooding into my mind, and writing another draft that I felt good about, and with great trepidation I might add, asked Joanne to read it once again. With me holding my breath while she silently perused the document, finally, and with a smile on her face, she said, "I think you have really got it!" That statement made me happier than when I passed my oral examination defending my doctoral dissertation before a group of learned professors at USC.
I have told Joanne that Adams, Jefferson, and Lincoln's Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, and Gettysburg Address, would have been so much better if they could have passed them by her before going public. Truthfully, however, she is a very gifted editor and has a finely tuned sense of what is good or bad in the written word or a talk.
This time of the year, the beginning of January, I often think of the incident in the Savior's ministry, recorded by Matthew, when the rich young man came to Him and asked Him a searching question – he wanted Jesus' feedback. Matthew recorded: "And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him…if thou wilt enter into life, keep the Commandments. He saith unto him, Which? [Jesus then told the young man to keep the 10 Commandments] The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: WHAT LACK I YET? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions." [Matthew 19:16-22]
I believe the young man's question, "What lack I yet?" is a question for the ages, and one we could all benefit from asking ourselves, a trusted spouse or friend, but especially to ask it of our Heavenly Father frequently. I am convinced if we ask that question of the Lord, and then take the time to listen, through the whisperings of the Spirit to our minds and the feelings that come into our hearts, we will receive an answer to our prayer and question. It of course, may take more than just one prayer.
There is a danger in asking that question, because we may not like the answer, as was the case with the rich young man. I don't know that the Savior would give all of us the same answer he gave to this young man. We are all lacking in different ways, I believe. The rich young man was more attached to his material things than he should have been which kept him from becoming a true disciple of Jesus. All of us, however, are lacking in something which is keeping us from following the Savior with more devotion, putting Him first in our lives, and being his true disciple.
Growth will only come to us as we recognize and honestly admit to ourselves, however hard it may be, what we lack and take the steps to overcome and deal with that weakness.
As Moroni so truthfully and beautifully wrote: "… And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make week things become strong unto them." [Ether 1 phase out 2:27]
The keywords in this teaching of Moroni, I believe, are (1) ",Come unto me," (2) "Humble themselves before me," and (3) "have faith in me." The promise to those who do so is that weak things will become strong unto them.
As I reflect back on my life, as I am sure is the case with all of you as you do likewise, you will see how this true principle has been operative in all our lives.
Especially at the beginning of this new year, I can't think of a more worthwhile question to ask the Lord than, "What lack I yet?"