Things That Matter and Things That Don’t

Perspective. So many times in my life I have forgotten what was important. Maybe you have as well. You know what I’m talking about. Getting bent out of shape over that driver that cut us off in traffic and staying mad for the next two hours – those type of things. We forget what is really important and start thinking stupid. We crown the little things, the unimportant things, the things that don’t matter, as rulers in our personal kingdoms and only a cold slap in the face of our meager existences can jolt us back to that thing we call perspective. Perspective: knowing what is really important and what is not.

Cancer gives you perspective. I wrote in a previous post how in May of this year I experienced hand-wringing worry about our diesel truck being repaired in time to pull our RV to Arizona. I could not eat or sleep. That truck was the most important thing on the planet to me. That is, until the doctor said the word “cancer” to Lisa and I while explaining the results of her biopsy. Suddenly, perspective returned to my thinking. I immediately could not have cared less if that truck ever started again. The scripture tells the story of the prodigal son squandering his inheritance and, in his own way, losing perspective. He partied so long and hard that, eventually, he found himself eating with the pigs. Something stirred in his soul and he was suddenly aware of his condition. My hunch is he probably felt not only hungry, but, stupid as well. He had lost perspective, but, suddenly, found himself. As his father declared to his brothers upon his return: “My son was lost but now is found.”

My father in law and I have spent a great deal of time together over these four months we have been home with Lisa’s cancer surgery and treatment. We have worked together remodeling our bathroom and taking care of other jobs around his house and ours. On an almost daily basis we have made runs to the local building supply store. God forbid that we make a list of things we need before we leave for Lowes. We would rather hop back in the truck and buy the screws one at a time. During one of our many trips we encountered a man who had completely lost his perspective. If I was not so pissed off with how he acted – I may have felt sorry for him.  Here is what happened:

I need to first explain that driving our Ford F-250 around town is not easy. The trucks poor turning radius requires us to park where we can use three or four spaces – usually far enough away that a shuttle bus would seem appropriate. We do a lot of walking to avoid tight spaces.  One day I parked a little too close to a small, new car and that is when this story got interesting. My father in law (Vernon) must have tapped the vehicle with his door as it opened and made a very, very small dent and scratch in its side. No big deal except the owner was in the car when it happened. By the time I had walked around to that side of the truck, the owner was already squatting down beside his car examining the carnage. Vernon immediately apologized and even offered to pay for damages. The man rubbed the microscopic dent and expressed his frustration since it was a new car. Again, Vernon apologized and had even taken his wallet out to pay for the, so called, damages by the time I realized what had happened. I could tell Vernon was bothered by his mistake. The man finally stormed back into his car and angrily drove away. The Hubble Telescope can spot black holes nine million light years away – but never would have spotted the dent that man was so upset over.  He, ladies and gentlemen, had lost perspective.

Throughout the rest of that day I thought about that man. I also thought about things I wish I had said to him. Maybe I should have said, ” Sir! Go to hell and take that dented up piece of crap car with you.”  Or maybe: “Hang on a minute, Sir! Let me get my microscope out of my trunk so I can see the damages.” Maybe I should have defended Vernon by telling him: “He is not paying anything for that dent. And I’m not paying for these dents.” (I then proceed to open my truck door and repeatedly bash the side of his car).

But after I thought more about it I really think the best thing to have done was just what Vernon did – apologize and offer to pay for his mistake. There was something very Jesus-like in Vernon that day. He was teaching me a lesson in humility and compassion. While I wanted to take a sledge hammer to the man’s hood – Vernon had taken out his wallet.

I don’t know the man’s name or remember what he looked like. I don’t even remember much about his car. But maybe he is reading this and if so I do have something to say to him. Here goes:

“Sir, my wife just went through breast cancer. Over these past four months we endured moments in which we did not know what our futures would be or if we would have a future. There is now the very real possibility that her cancer could return. Each night I pray for her as she sleeps next to me and I ask God to keep cancer out of her life forever. I want her to see Conner Jack grow up. I want her to see our other grandchildren be born and grow. I want to travel with her to other places and see her help men and woman with heart conditions figure out what is wrong and continue to be part of God’s healing plan for their lives – no matter if they live in Hanover, Pennsylvania, Kingman, Arizona or Owensboro, Kentucky. I don’t want her to hurt anymore or be sick anymore. Cancer is a heartless disease that takes no prisoners. It attacks the rich and the poor. It took my mom and I am begging God to never allow it to take anyone else in my family. And now – I want you to look Lisa in the eyes and tell her about that dent in your car door.”

Perspective.

Love, Steve and Lisa.

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