I remember the time my daughter volunteered to clean the house, and it was a mess! No, it wasn't our house, it wasn't her house, it was the house that her college boyfriend and some other guys wanted to move into. Now when I use the word mess, that's charitable.
When you have young grandchildren, hey, you're back in the toy business again. And sure enough, man, have we had a closet full of toys that, contrary to some vicious rumors, are not mine. They are there for the grandchildren. And they quickly learn to relocate those toys from the closet to our living room every time they would visit. One of them is this furry blue puppet with bulging eyes - good old Cookie Monster of Sesame Street fame. You know him. And he's got this string in his back. When you pull it, he starts chewing and moving his arms and uttering his trademark phrase: "Cookie. Me want cookie!" Pull the string again and he'll say the same thing again. No matter how many times you pull that string, he's going to do the "cookie" thing every time.
Snow I can handle, I grew up with it okay. But ice - that's another story. Driving on that slick stuff, walking on it - that's just downright treacherous. Some of the most dangerous winter weather I ever experienced was a few years ago. There was a series of ice storms that dumped this triple layer of ice on every surface in our area. And then the temperature was stuck below freezing for nearly two weeks, so we did some fancy-dancin' for a while. One thing I was glad we had, though, was a stock of that ice-melting compound, those little crystals that you scatter on the ice. And slowly but surely it starts to soften that slippery stuff and then it starts to melt it. And when there's hard ice everywhere, man, that's a breakthrough!
I think we all have awful memories of the painful scenes at Ground Zero in the rubble of the World Trade Center after September 11. I was kind of close to that because of our years in the New York area and even the people we knew in that building. And the firemen, policemen, emergency personnel, combing through the wreckage for their fallen brothers and sisters. You can remember. They would pause for a moment of silent tribute as the remains of one of them would be carried out. But at a time when there was talk of reducing the number of workers at the site, I saw a scene that was painful in a different way. Tempers flaring in the raw emotions of that moment, and some of those firefighters and police who had been fighting together to save or find people in the rescue and recovery effort were suddenly fighting with one another at Ground Zero.
When we were living in New Jersey, boy, Giants Stadium - it was a mecca in northern New Jersey. At that time, 70,000 people. before the new stadium was built, were... I mean it's bigger now. But, boy, that's a lot of people descending on the Giants football game; cars clogging every artery anywhere near the stadium. And I was one of those crazy people sometimes! All across the New York area, countless others did nothing that afternoon but watch television to see what was going on there at the Meadowlands. It was like that stadium had a giant magnet inside it, with the power to pull multitudes of people to focus on one place and one event.
They advertised a special on "flying sharks." And the TV channel didn't disappoint the people who tuned in. They showed an island off the coast of South Africa where great white sharks jump as much as 15 feet in the air with their prey, and the seals are their meal du jour. The area around this island is called the "Ring of Death"...and a whole lot of seals would agree. No one knows exactly why the sharks there get airborne as they do. It's apparently the only place on earth where they behave like this. But the TV special showed real footage of a shark suddenly coming up underneath an unsuspecting seal, grabbing it in his jaws, and soaring into the air with his catch. Now the seals have learned something about these jumping jaws. The sharks seldom attack when they're traveling together. So they tend to stay in groups of seven or eight. Smart! But occasionally a stubborn seal will just go off on his own. And the scientists say when a seal goes off by itself, he is just asking to be shark lunch.
Okay, I'm traveling. I get off the road because it's lunch time. I have a choice. My vehicle is empty, and I'm empty. Which one shall I fill up first? Well, there's a gas station on one side of the road; a restaurant on the other. Guess which one I fill up first? Yep, me. So, I went in, ordered my food. Looking out the window, I noticed that the attendant over there was changing the sign out in front. Does this sound familiar? He's posting a new gasoline price, and it's several cents higher per gallon than the price it had been a few minutes earlier. Oh, you can believe that can't you?. That was a costly choice.
Traveling with our On Eagles' Wings team of young Native Americans, we had an opportunity to make an interesting scenic stop at the headwaters of the mighty Mississippi River; except the Mississippi isn't very mighty at that point. Now I've crossed the Mississippi many times - you know, over long bridges that span the "Father of Waters" at places like St. Louis and Memphis and it's impressive. But not where it begins. No, after walking this little trail through the woods, you come to this very unimpressive little stream. Actually, "stream" is probably a compliment. It's sort of an overgrown puddle at that point. I mean, you can easily wade through the shallow water. You can walk through the Mississippi without even getting very wet. That's at the headwaters. And it takes less than a minute to walk across, or through, the Mississippi. But as it flows down its 2,500-mile course to the south, something amazing happens to this humble little puddle. But who would ever guess that just standing there looking at where it comes from?
I got this wonderful letter from Mark, who was a teenager in one of my Campus Life Clubs a looong time ago. He was reflecting on those high school years and his summer job as a lifeguard. I'll just quote from his letter. He said, "Lots of city folk who couldn't swim came out to our beach, and we went in many, many times for them. I was paranoid that I'd lose someone on my watch and we never did." Then he went on to describe another nearby beach as a place where "suburban trained swimmers go. They did lose a child when no one else was looking."