Friday, August 26, 2016


During the summer before I graduated college, I worked in fire protection. One of my tasks was to college fire extinguishers from the various locations in the factory where I worked, empty them, replace any damaged parts, refill them, and place them back where they belonged. Occasionally, we would find one that was clogged up, so it wouldn’t discharge. That was the whole point of the exercise. We needed to find the ones that wouldn’t work, so that people would have access to a working extinguisher. Shortly after we began that task, we discovered one of these and one of the guys we were working for helped us with it. He removed the nozzle while it was still under pressure hurriedly positioned it so that it would dump into the container we were supposed to empty these things into. Sometime later, I was working alone and ran into the same situation. Rather than releasing the air pressure, like I should have, I tried doing what he had done. Instead of the result he had, I ended up with a more predictable result. I had dry chemical all over me, all over the room, and everywhere. And then I had to clean up the mess.

There were things to learn from that experience, but one of the things I find interesting is why I did what I did. Had I not been following the example of someone more experienced, I would’ve thought it through, released the pressure and then removed the nozzle, so I could work on it. We learn bad methods by watching bad examples. In that situation, I should’ve been able to recognize that it was a bad example, but I didn’t. We have many situations where we learn from bad examples.

When I was a kid, we would go to Fifth Sunday Meetings. The churches we would go to would put out a feast that would put what we have at church to shame. Rural churches put out better meals than city churches because there’s no restaurant or store to buy the food from. And some of it is fresh from the garden. In any case, I remember loading my plate with food and then going back for more. At one such meeting, I remember telling someone, “I had two dinners and three desserts.” And I remember people saying, “You’d better go back and get you some more.” Then there was the statement, “he needs to eat a lot; he’s a growing boy.” People were praised for their ability to eat a lot of food and people would brag about how much they ate. It never occurred to me that piling my plate with food and going back for seconds was a bad thing. Why would it? The adults were doing that can bragging about it.

I wonder if we wouldn’t have so many overweight people if there weren’t so many people bragging about going back for second. What if people bragged about taking only what they needed? But it’s not just eating. I’ve noticed that people brag about their ailments as well. “These old knees just can’t handle that anymore.” “My back can’t take sitting in those pews anymore. Would someone hand me one of those pillows?”

While it is true that some people have problems as they age, I wonder if some people don’t begin using age related excuses sooner than they should, because the culture encourages it. Many of the problems that people blame on age aren’t age related but are a result of eating too much and not exercising. I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are older people who maintain a healthy weight and continue to exercise. They have problems, but you don’t hear them talking about their problems as much. Why don’t we celebrate them as our examples, instead of treating them like they are some kind of exception to the rule?

Every generation has people of which it says, “They worked hard all their lives.” These people reach their 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and beyond and they are still going strong. I think people forget that these people were also going strong in their 50’s, 40’s, and 30’s. These people didn’t plop themselves down in front of a television with a soda in one hand and a bag of chips in the other when they got out of college. Or if they did, they put those things aside. Perhaps they too had bad examples, but they realized it and changed the pattern.