I like writers who share the lessons life teaches them with their readers. That's probably why three of my favorite writers are Harold Kushner ("When Bad Things Happen to Good People"), Robert Fulghum ("All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten") and poet Maya Angelou.
Following their lead, here are some lessons I've picked up lately:- Mr. Anderson came by the office the other day. Being the Crackerjack journalist I am, I forgot to get his first name, but I can say he was in his late 80s, spry-eyed and warm.
Mr. Anderson had a baseball with him. The Sports Desk sent him down to see me since they know I like to tinker with baseball memorabilia. The baseball he had was covered with signatures. As a boy in New York, Mr. Anderson had it signed by a few folks that hung out there - Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson . . .
My eyes popped when I saw the thing. I figured he held $8,000 in his hand.
Then something strange happened.
Mr. Anderson began to tell me about his family. He told me how his son had played ball for Brigham Young University, about the day the kid broke a finger making a great play.
He told me of his own childhood in New York, about his father and mother.
Pretty soon I began to get the picture.
Mr. Anderson didn't care if the ball was worth $10 or $10,000. What mattered were the memories the baseball triggered of the people he loved.
He didn't care about fame and fortune. He cared about family.
For Mr. Anderson, "babe" wasn't a name for a ballplayer; "babe" was what you called your wife; what you held in your arms after your wife gave birth.
4 My wife believes life's most negative situations can teach the most positive lessons.
So, as a personal challenge, I've been trying to think of three positive things a person might learn from a gritty, back-street, Las Vegas casino at 3 a.m.
So far I've come up with these:
1. - When someone wins money from a slot machine, lights glare, buzzers buzz. You can hear the coins tumbling into metal dishes all through the house.
But when someone loses, there's a deathly silence.
Lesson: Play up the positive, play down the negative. When something goes right, make something of it. When something goes wrong, don't make a big deal of it.
2. - There are no clocks in casinos, everything exists outside of time.
Lesson: We'd all be better off if we covered up the clocks in our homes one day a week. For 24 hours we'd be forced to live moment to moment - the way saints and artists live. We'd see the world in a fresh light.
3. - Millions of people stream through Vegas casinos each year. Las Vegas is an acquarium for people watchers.
Lesson: Life is a gamble. Learn from other people - watch what they do to win, learn why they lose. That way you don't have to learn everything in life by painful personal experience.
- Once a week someone sends me a poem they want published in the Deseret News. I have to send it back, explaining the Deseret News doesn't publish poetry. Well, that's a half truth. The paper does publish poetry, when it's my poetry. (There are advantages to this column business).
Here's a fresh lesson in verse:
OLD TIME RELIGION
St. Vitus' Dance, St. Elmo's Fire,
The Mormon Tabernacle Choir,
Mea Culpas, Ave Marys,
Cannibals and Missionaries,
Sects that roll and shake and quake,
The eerie poems of William Blake,
Matthew's passion, St. John's grief:
(Don't gimme no Lukewarm belief!)