[Note: While on I’m on vacation, TLC is featuring guest posts from Landon Saunders.]
by Landon Saunders
In response to last week’s email on “Feet,” Dr. Paul Sampley, my good friend, responded with a similar story. He said there was a professor who used to go into the classroom early and leave his hat on his desk and then go for coffee. One day he was delayed and, by the time he got back to his classroom, only a few students were still there. He declared: “When my hat’s here, I’m here!” At the next meeting of the class, the professor arrived to find a hat on every desk—and no students!
“When my hat’s here, I’m here!” This hat story reminds me of another.
I had to meet with a man who, I’d been told, had some real problems with me! It boded something a bit ominous. I had expected to meet him later in the day, but I rounded a corner in a hallway and bumped right into him. I said, “Oh, excuse me. This isn’t how I planned to meet you. My plan was to find the room you were in, toss my hat in to see if it stayed, and, if it did, then I would come in.” He paused a moment then roared with laughter. I knew right away that it had smoothed the path.
Right now, when so many of us are all cooped up together, nerves can fray, encounters can be tense. If anticipating tension in the room you’re about to enter, why not do something unexpected—maybe like throwing your hat into the room! Could lighten things up a bit!
In Texas they have a saying, “He’s all hat, and no cattle.” Today I’m more than willing to be “all hat” in pursuit of your smile.
(Note: While I’m on vacation, TLC will feature guest posts from Landon Saunders.)
A student goes in to take the final exam in a course entitled Ornithology, the study of birds. He has spent days poring over his notes and reading the assigned materials. He feels ready for anything.
The exam is passed out, and he takes a look at it. The entire exam consists of drawings of the feet of various birds. By looking at only the feet, he is supposed to name the bird the feet belong to.
He looks at the exam for about sixty seconds and realizes he can identify none of the birds, and he is too disgusted to guess. He folds the paper, not even bothering to put his name on it, and hands it to the professor.
Before he can get out the door, the professor calls to him, “What’s your name?” The college student turns around, pulls up his pant leg, dangles his foot in the air for the professor to see and shouts, “You tell me!”
We’ve probably all had the experience of thinking we understand something or someone only to realize later we were looking at a small piece of the picture. The full picture of a human life is enormous. Who could ever see and understand it all? But the quest to understand…that is a beautiful part of what it is to be human.
The trick is to seek that understanding with a full measure of the humility that we may not be seeing the whole picture.
In this time of so much polarization and divisiveness, let’s seek the humility that would help us see the “other” with greater kindness and understanding. It might be healing.
Guest Post from Landon Saunders
“Our great and glorious masterpiece is to live properly,” wrote the essayist Montaigne who himself had faced a great plague.
To think of our life as a great and glorious masterpiece—that’s not a bad place to begin. To think of what would make our life a great and glorious masterpiece—that would be even better.
In many ways this present crisis has shined a light on our sense of self and our mortality in rare and unusual ways. I know it has for me.
We’re pushed away from crowds, away from concerts and churches, away from the social enjoyment of bars and restaurants, away from colleagues at work, and away from schools—away from all the places that surround us with people. Nor is it as easy to jump in the car and head to the beach or the lake to get away from it all.
Now, we are facing our sense of self and our sense of mortality like never before. We are facing what it means to “live properly” with fewer people around to support us.
And millions are doing it pretty well. They’re tapping into the inner wellsprings of courage, patience, creativity, and endurance. We’re all faced with the question: will we draw on the resources of our heart to add shape and beauty to our great and glorious masterpiece…or will we be diminished?
This crisis will surely end. And most of our lives will go on. Let’s do our best to strengthen our resolve, add myriad colors to who we are, smooth some rough edges, and emerge greater and stronger. In this way you will have benefited, and everyone around you—your children and family and friends—will marvel at your masterpiece.
Yes, even in this difficult time, let’s strive to “live properly.” Let’s not just “get through it,” let’s emerge from it all a better person.