Little Epistle It Coulda Been Worse

You’ve heard the saying of course, the optimist sees the glass half full. The pessimist sees it half empty. It seems to me these days more folks are seeing it half empty than half full or if it is half full the contents are polluted or fattening.

But a few blue birds of happiness are still chirping. Hooray for them.

Between the two poles are the unsinkables, people who acknowledge the problems but are not crushed by them. My mother was one of those. “It could have been worse,” she said when the kitchen caught fire, and after various other setbacks.

I like the story of a grandmother who said this whenever something bad happened. Her grandchildren had heard that so often they decided to test her limits. At a family picnic they ran to her shouting. “Gramma little Herman done been carried off by the devil.”

Sure enough, she replied, “Coulda been worse.”

“Gramma, how could it be worse?”

“The devil coulda made Herman carry him.”

At least Little Herman got a free ride.

I assume that’s just a story, but I have one that tops it, and this one is true.

Elder LeGrand Richards was an apostle in the church for many years. He was also a survivor of the “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” as Hamlet describes life. Elder Richards endured at least his share of life’s bumps and bruises, yet he remained an unsinkable optimist, or at least a “coulda been worseist”

Well into his later years I was asked to interview him, gather old photos and memorabilia and narrate and produce a documentary for television. When I talked with him he acknowledged he was pushing the envelope of mortality, but he was cheered by the good folks and experiences life had brought him and by the knowledge he would soon be with his beloved wife again.

A short time later because of his age and compromised blood circulation they had to amputate one of his feet. I’m sure he didn’t enjoy being on crutches for the rest of his life, but had a standard answer to his many friends who asked, “Elder Richards how are you doing?”

“Oh, I’m just glad they started on that end.”

That’s coulda been worse at its best.

Little Epistle: Hidden Motives

I was so young I only vaguely remember the incident. But I strongly remember the lesson. My busy father asked me to feed our cow. I threw her a puny mouthful of hay or two and went back to playing. Somehow in my still developing tiny brain I had the feeling my father would think this was cute. His little boy doing the best he could to feed the big cow with the big man-sized pitchfork. I miscalculated. He didn’t think his son was either small or cute. He marched me back to the barn and had me do it right.

Why didn’t that caper come off? The reason was I was kidding myself about my own motivation. I wasn’t trying to be cute. I was trying (and succeeding) to be lazy.

Sometimes our real motivations are subtle and shadowy. But Searching for them is worth the effort. Because once we find them we have struck gold in terms of seeing who we really are and how we can improve.

Sometimes the masquerading motivation is easy to spot, particularly when someone else is claiming it. Who of us buys these lines? “I’m only doing this for your own good.” “It’s not the money. It’s the principle of the thing.” (Note: It’s the money.) “I’m not prejudiced but…”

One day in Calcutta a woman from New York showed up to help Mother Teresa with her work. Mother Teresa cut short the woman’s ambitions and revealed her real motive with a simple question. “Are there no poor in New York?” I suspect the woman herself had not realized her real motivation was to identify with the famous saintly nun rather than participate in the kind of work that had gained Mother Teresa notoriety.

Concealing our true motives even from ourselves comes natural to us as children. When this fuzziness or professed ignorance of our motivations continues into adulthood however it can be a stumbling block to our progress. If we don’t analyze what prompts our thoughts and actions, we will wander along in a fog not quite realizing why life is not bringing to us what we hoped it would.

Philosophers, psychologists, even we common folk may wonder if we really can know what our deep motives are. The apostle Paul may have had something like this in mind when he wrote, “For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” 1 Corinthians 13:12

My experience has been that the best way to sort out our motives is to ask the Being who knows us better than we know ourselves. Go to Him in humble prayer, and he will help us not only identify our real motives, but improve them, and eventually purify them unto perfection.

Little Epistle Real Beauty

My friend Martin Guitar and I were talking about beauty. Martin is a sentimental guy, and quoted this from Joe Cocker’s, hit “You are so beautiful.”

Which for some reason reminded me of this saying and of this woman’s story. The saying is, “Life is a Grindstone, and whether it wears us down or polishes us up depends on what we are made of.” And the woman, her name was Caroline.

On the surface Caroline was a slim beautiful young woman living in a large comfortable home on her father’s farm. They dined on fine china, and enjoyed the good life.

But what was she inside? The years would tell.

She married. Their first child died. Seventeen years later her beloved husband died leaving her with six children. Four months later her mother died.

In 1919 Caroline’s sister died six hours after giving birth to a son. Caroline took the baby and reared him as her own. They named him Leon Weston. They called him Pete.

Less than a month later Caroline’s beautiful 18 year old daughter died. Her singing had drawn praise from a New York opera company. She chose love and marriage. Now the lovely voice was stilled, and the voice of the baby developing inside her was never heard.

The accumulated losses preyed on Caroline’s own health. She developed diabetes and lived the rest of her life on a strict diet and three injections of insulin every day.

Caroline and her sister had married brothers. It was fitting the widow and widower should marry, to rear the blended family of fourteen children.

Caroline’s second husband died from a farm chemical that ate away his flesh inside and out in a week.

Caroline and the children ran the farm and survived. And succeeded in creating a happy home where friends loved to gather. The children all said later that they never felt poor.

Another widower married Caroline to care for her. A few weeks later he had a stroke, and became an invalid. Caroline cared for him for five years. He died.

During all this she served as Relief Society president in her church for 18 years giving care and consolation to families who had troubles in the twelve square miles that was their ward.

Caroline paid the bills by selling eggs from her flock of 1,000 chickens. She loved the chickens that laid eggs. She liked the ones who didn’t lay. She liked them especially for Sunday dinner.

She survived the great depression by self reliance. She refused government help. When the well broke her boys hauled water in buckets for the family and the chickens until she saved enough money to fix the well.

She survived the pain in her legs and feet from gangrene and diabetes.

She survived in part by a cheerful outlook and determination to never complain.

Fittingly, she is best remembered because of chickens. Little Pete who once helped peddle her eggs became the father of Kentucky Fried Chicken. He helped pay for a building that blesses lives throughout America and many nations. The Brigham Young University Division of Continuing Education. The building and the worldwide correspondence carry the name of Pete’s beloved aunt/mother Carrie.

Caroline Hemenway Harman; the grinding wheel of life polished the beauty within her. The eternal beauty

Money can buy happiness

Little Epistle: Money can buy happines
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“The best things in life don’t cost any money, and you can’t buy them at the store.

It may sound strange, and it may sound funny, but listen while I tell you more.”

Those are lines I wrote for a song a while back, and I believe them.

But there are also some pretty good things you can buy with money. Ask Pete Harman. Pete is the man who put wings and a turbojet thruster on Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Pete Harman loved to make money, and he loved to spend it.

Pete’s way of making and enjoying money was this. He worked hard, and got ahead of the game by living comfortably but not ostentatiously.

Fairly soon he was prosperous enough to spend on his favorite pastime. He’d go to the tough part of a city and see the young men and women lounging around out of work, out of money, and mostly out of hope.
He’d pick out one of them, and the conversation would go something like this.

Pete, “How would you like to have your own restaurant business?”

Person, “How would like a knuckle sandwich?”

“I’m serious. Can you throw chicken?”

“I can throw anything.”

“If you want to work, I’ll build a fried chicken restaurant on that corner over there. I’ll put up the money. You run it, and we’ll split the profits.”

They would sign the papers, build the franchise, and soon the young entrepreneur and Pete would have their picture in the company magazine as another success story.

He also spent money on charities, civic and educational programs, and other worthy projects.

Pete didn’t love the money. He loved the people he could help, and the good he could do with the money.

One of the great moments of his life was to see the beautiful new Brigham Young University building for continuing education, and see etched in marble the name of the person he so loved and honored. I’ll tell you next time who and why she was.

But for now, that’s how money can buy happiness.

(To be continued)

Follow Me

This is a little song I wrote a few years ago. People have asked me to share it. Here are the words with chords. Oops, I see the program grouped all the chords together. Sorry about that, but I think a few times through and you can hear when to change chords.
If you want a piano score, send me your email, and I’ll see if I can send it as an attachment.
click the picture to hear the tune. (You knew that already right?)

Follow Me
Duane E. Hiatt
Copyright 1995

c Em F C
Jesus came to Galilee
F C D7 G7
He found Peter by the sea
c Em F C
And the sons of Zebedee
F C G7 C
He said to them, “Follow Me

C F C
Follow me, follow me,
F C G7
Leave your nets and follow me
C F C
Treasures for eternity
F C G7 C
Will be yours, come follow me

Peter, Andrew, James, and Jude
Matthew and Bartholomew
All disciples good and true
Did just what he asked them to

Follow me, follow me,
Leave your work and follow me
Treasures for eternity
Will be yours, come follow me

So he calls to us today
Get down on your knees and pray
Listen and you’ll hear him say
I’m the truth, the light, the way

Follow me, follow me,
Leave your cares and follow me
Treasures for eternity
Will be yours, come follow me