Shades of the '60s: angry, discontented young people, occupying public places, trying to call attention to their cause. We've seen that before and we're seeing it a lot these days.
The '60s demonstrations were about a war, and they turned more violent. Then there were the 2011 crowds. They were occupying high-profile public areas like Wall Street, for example, around the world, with a different cause - they were claiming their protest was about jobs, and corporate greed, concentrated wealth, economic injustice.
When World War II began, almost every American's life changed, including my dad's. He couldn't fight because of a medical problem, and he was working at that time in a plant that had been making some kind of industrial product. And suddenly almost overnight it was converted into a defense plant. They stopped making whatever little things they had been making, and they started to make airplane parts. Well, it was obvious what was happening. It was a war, and that plant had to be used to help win the war. During that time, not that I remember it personally (let me make that clear), people made sacrifices of gasoline, and food, and rubber tires, and money. Why? Well, because you know that everything is needed to fight the war. It was then and it still is.
I was more of a Superman and Batman fan. I never really got into Spider-Man. But when the blockbuster Spider-Man movie came out, the first one, a lot of people did get into Spider-Man. And you know what? There have been a couple more movies since then, they've got more than a couple now. I'm still not tremendously interested in this web-spinning, skyscraper-climbing, crime-fighting guy in the spider suit, but I am interested in something he said in the first movie about him. Peter Parker, yeah you probably know this as the bookish teenager who gets bitten by a radioactive spider one day. (You never know when that's going to happen to you.) And he begins to discover that he has suddenly developed some amazing spiderish capabilities. (All right, look, I'm reporting the story, I didn't write it. Okay?) Now, it dawns on him that he can't just use these abilities for himself. He has to use them to make a difference. Here's the great line. Here's what he says. I like it: "For me, living an ordinary life is no longer an option." Oh, that's good!
I have to admit that my wife and I were a little naïve sometimes in the months right after we were married. It was obvious the day this fast-talking vacuum cleaner salesman showed up at our apartment door. He showed us this high-powered machine that did everything but the laundry. He lured us with impressive demonstrations, he offered us an easy payment plan, and a deal (of course) that we had to act on immediately. Well, Mr. Newlywed here eagerly signed on the line. "All right! Hey, I am the proud owner of a high-tech vacuum cleaner! About five times more vacuum cleaner than our apartment could possibly need!" By the next day, I wanted out, but guess what? I couldn't back out then. In my enthusiasm, I had simply left out the most important ingredient in the decision.
I don't have much time for TV, and when I do, I don't usually watch gymnastics. But some time ago they were showing a sports feature about gymnastics on a plane flight. As usual, I had too much to do to get the headset that carries the audio, but I did occasionally glance up at the video part. It was a gymnastics meet between the U.S. and Russia. You can probably guess who I was rooting for. Now, I couldn't hear any commentary, but I saw some impressive performances by these young athletes. I also saw an occasional replay. But every time they did a replay, it seems like all they showed was the gymnast's mistakes; anything she was marked down for, and they kept replaying it. They had executed some great moves, but no, we don't go over those - just their mistakes.
It was the strangest picnic in American history I think. It was July 1861, on a hill in Northern Virginia, overlooking a stream called Bull Run. The Southern states had seceded from the Union, they'd attacked a Union fort in April, and now what the North called "the rebel army" was headed for Washington, D.C. Most people in the capitol thought the Union Army was going to mop up these Southern forces in a matter of weeks, and they wanted to see it happen as the Northern troops moved to engage the Confederates at Bull Run. They came from church in their Sunday best, the ladies and gentlemen of Washington arriving at the hill overlooking Bull Run in their carriages. They laid out their tablecloths, commenced their picnic, and started passing the fried chicken. Down below, the men in blue and the men in gray mingled their blood in the waters of Bull Run.
A runaway train: that's how they billed the upcoming story on the evening news, and I stayed tuned. They weren't exaggerating. Somehow a freight train (this actually happened in Ohio a few years ago) started rolling down the tracks with no one on board. It kept rolling for many miles across the Ohio countryside, sometimes at speeds of nearly 60 MPH. It was pretty amazing to see the footage of a railroad intersection, lights blinking, gates down, cars stopped, and here is a train just rolling through without anyone at the controls. Well, using a combination of ingenuity and heroism, they finally managed to get a couple of men aboard who were able to stop it. And that's a very good thing!
I was with some missionaries in Guadalajara, Mexico, and David was there leading a team that was reaching young Latin Americans through a historic youth broadcast we had going. Now David is a big guy and I had my picture taken with him; he was wearing a tie - I was wearing a sport shirt. It looked like "bring your son to work day." Guess who looked like the son. Because of the crime rate in David's area, he and his family needed a guard dog, and they had one; a big one that's a match even for his master, David. The dog was appropriately named General and he was pretty much in charge at the house. When David came home from a night of ministry, General was right there at the gate, waiting to play. Playing with this aggressive German Shepherd could cost you a finger or two if you're not careful. But, somehow, David had done a good job of mastering the dog. In fact, I heard him tell General, "Get your bowl, and I'll feed you!" General just wanted his master to give him food, but David wanted him to go for it. So, this German Shepherd bolted up the walk to his big, empty plastic bowl, grabbed it in his iron jaws, and trotted up to his master with it. Sure enough, if he got his bowl, his master would fill it.
There's nothing I appreciate more than a good night's sleep, because sleep is something I don't get a lot of. Deprivation creates value, you know. Frankly, if the bed is decent, I don't care too much about the surroundings. A night's sleep is a night's sleep and the whole time I'm asleep I don't know where I am anyway, right? So that's my philosophy of sleep. Aren't you impressed? Now, apparently, some nights' sleep are a big deal to some people, especially if it means sleeping in the historic Lincoln bedroom in the White House. You know, over the years, there's been a lot of discussion about major contributions to Presidential campaigns and those who have given a lot, being given the privilege to spend the night at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue; or as one senator called it, Motel 1600. I guess if any place to sleep is special, being in the White House, just down the hall from the President and the First Lady, that would be it. People come away from that experience, even rich and powerful people who have seen and done it all, really impressed by being in that historic, powerful place for just a night. I've never stayed at the White House, but wait until you hear where I just came from!
I used to laugh at my roommate in college when he'd get a love letter from his girlfriend. He was kind of weird all day. He'd go off and he'd read that thing, you know, four or five times. And I'd go, "Hey, Buddy, there's nothing new in there. It says the same thing every time." Well, there was no laughing when I was separated from the woman I loved and ended up marrying. No, Karen and I were separated for the summers, and boy, I'll tell you what. I would write a letter to her just about every day, and she'd write a letter to me just about every day. I've got a whole suitcase full of those letters it's still nice to go back and read. Because I'll tell you, what made my day was going to that mailbox and getting some mail and knowing there would probably be mail there from somebody who loved me very much.