Monday, January 30, 2006 Observation:
About three weeks ago I got a new wheelchair. It is the third one I have had since my accident in 1989. Each time I get one there is a period of adjustment because the wheelchair, for someone in my condition, is really an extension of one's body. Each chair has been much better than the previous which is the case with my new one. I have adapted to it very quickly thankfully. The technology on my new chair is just amazing to me. It is a breath control chair which means I control it by giving commands through sipping and puffing on a hard plastic straw that I hold between my teeth. I have a little display by my left hand which enables me to see in what mode the chair is operating. I have 4 different drive modes that have been custom programmed by computer to meet my specific needs and desires. My first drive mode I call "The Temple Drive". I designed it to be very gentle going forward or backward and especially as I turn right or left. I have already, in my old chair, left my mark on the wall of the new Newport Beach, California Temple and don't want a repeat performance. Drive 2 I call my "All-purpose Drive". I had it programmed to go faster than Drive 1 in all directions and yet it's safe enough to use at Church or at home. Drive 3 I call "Ramming Speed". Drive 3 is strictly an outdoor mode and in that mode I can flat-out move. I use it driving to the park for example, or in Costco. There is enough kid still in me to enjoy letting it go full blast and then seeing how tight I can turn it. You guys without wheelchairs are really missing out on a lot of fun. Drive 4 is the attendant control Drive. Jo Anne operates it and so I had it programmed to be wimpier than the "Temple Drive" as a life preserving and precautionary measure.
The chair is a new concept created by Invacare Corp.. They won many engineering awards for its design. It has six wheels -- two small ones in front and in back and then two larger wheels at the right and left center of the chair. It is called a "Center Wheel Drive" wheelchair. It has great stability and the back two wheels even have shocks to make the ride more comfortable. My particular model allows me to also tilt and recline which I normally do in high priest group meeting. I think a lot of the other brethren are jealous of this particular ability. The make of my wheelchair is "Storm TDX 3". Boy, that name alone is enough to just get your blood pumping. The only problem I have with the wheelchair is that it is much smarter than I am.
Well, it wasn't my intention to bore you with so many details regarding my wheelchair. My observation is how blessed we all are that there are people in the world that are talented and trained and have the desire to invent wonderful creations that bless and improve the quality of our lives. I am in awe of, and appreciate so much, people who can create and produce concrete physical things that bless mankind. If all we had in the world were lawyers, teachers and insurance salesmen we would all be in a "world of hurt".
Each day I sit for hours at a beautiful oak custom-made desk working at my computer. The entire room is filled with oak shelves and cabinets which in turn are filled with favorite books and memorabilia. Directly above my computer screen is an ingeniously created corner cabinet with a number of shelves. A beautiful porcelain statue of Nephi gazing out at the horizon meets my gaze many times each day. It is very comforting to me to be reminded daily of Nephi's faith and non-murmuring acceptance of the challenges that he dealt with in his life. This beautiful room and two others were built by some members of my ward who knew how to create and build something concrete. Gary Anderson did all the finish cabinetry and woodwork in our home. Paul Colby, Mike Davidson, JD Barr, Les Reeves, Dave Poulter, Bob Phelps, Brian Graves, and I know I am forgetting some other very important brothers -- please forgive me -- knew how to do electrical, plumbing, hang dry wall, do cement work, and enlist the help of framers and roofers who also generously volunteered their time. Most of these brethren were construction guys -- superintendents and etc. -- and they got their hands dirty and sweated in creating a thing of lasting beauty. I'm afraid that if it had been someone else who were injured and I were to be left able-bodied my friends undoubtedly would have requested I leave the project to them.
I fear that in our society we tend to look down on "blue-collar" workers. What a tragic mistake. Ogden Nash, I believe, truthfully and yet sadly said that "People who sit to do their work make a lot more money than people who stand to do their work." I certainly have nothing against people who sit to do their work -- that is my modus operandi -- but we surely have missed out on something important if we haven't learned how to create something concrete and of lasting value with our hands. I have always felt the truthfulness of the following words of Elder Boyd K. Packer: "We have raised a large family on a very modest income, and it’s likely that our children are going to have the same privilege. In order to prepare them, we’ve trained them to do ordinary, necessary things as preparation for their careers. For instance, we have maintained an area (sometimes it’s the corner of a basement room) where there is a work bench, where projects could be left. There can be some paint or a little sawdust on the floor, without a problem. In spite of continuous cleanup, this area is perpetually untidy, but with a purpose. We have followed another practice. Each Christmas, at least one of the presents for the boys has been a hand tool. When they were old enough, a good metal toolbox was included. When each has left home, he has had his own set of tools and some knowledge of how to use them. He can tune up a car, or drive a nail, or turn a screw, or replace a plug or a faucet washer. The girls, in turn, have learned to cook and to sew, and each has left home with a sewing machine. This training is doubly important—first, in frugal living at home, and then in their value as an employee. They would, we hoped, be not only good, but good for something." (Ensign, May, 1982, 84)
I think his counsel is timeless. I didn't really do a good job in this area with my own sons but I think thankfully, they are all better builders, fixers and doers -- no thanks to me -- than I ever was.
I am grateful for the inventors of computers, voice-recognition software, ventilators that never fail, wheelchairs that are simply awesome, and a host of other concrete things created by good men and women who are very intelligent and talented, and who are not afraid to sweat and get their hands dirty.