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When I Become Smaller

John W. Pinkerton


Some times when it's very quite and I'm alone with my thoughts, it's as though I become smaller.  It's as though I move away from myself and view myself from farther and farther away.  My mind allows me to move from being the large center of the universe to a place from which I can see the larger world and I'm just a speck in the total picture.

It's not unpleasant.  It's actually a little reassuring.

It makes me realize that not everything is dependent on me.  As a young fellow, I had the philosophy that I was responsible for everything that happened, and each time something awful happened in the world, I felt as though I should have been able to prevent it.  Not a light responsibility to have.

I had to laugh out loud at a salesman who when visiting our school responded to my question, “How's it going,” with, “Fine since I realized that I'm not going to be President.”

I realized long ago I wasn't going to be President.  In fact, I never had any ambition to become President.  In fact, I don't think I ever had any ambition to become any more than what I've been.  I showed up in life and said let's see what happens.

After teaching for five years, I got out to do other things for a year---time to sort things out.  When I returned to teaching, I had an uneasy feeling that I had let myself down---after all, teaching high school English is not the highest achievement.  But I gave it some thought and thought that a career in education at least was an honorable thing to do.  My life would not be a total loss when I reached old age.

In those quite moments when I begin to become smaller, I look outside myself at the lives of others…particularly friends from my youth.  There were three friends from high school that I think of.  One became a respected lawyer in Louisiana; one became an entrepreneur who made and lost and won several fortunes in Louisiana and Texas and the third had a successful business career in Colorado.  Of the four of us, I undoubtedly was the runt of the bunch.

I also think of fellows I knew in high school who became friends in college.  One became an entomologist and another who became a college teacher, businessman and fireworks entrepreneur supreme.

Again I fall far short of their accomplishments.

In those quite moments I think about the folks who are making a difference in the world---the soldiers who fight our battles, the firemen and policemen who place our lives above theirs, the ministers who try to save ours souls, the athletes who stretch their physical and psychological limits, the lawyers who defend and lawyers who prosecute, the carpenters, the plumbers and electricians and architects and financiers who make the building of great structures possible, the doctors and medical assistants who try to make us healthy and save our lives as long as possible----the myriad of people who live lives worth living.  Of course, not all of these folks do their jobs with a glad heart nor do all  do their jobs well, but many do their jobs with care and honesty and gladly.

I've never been an envious person.  When I taught, I had only admiration for those who were better educators than I was.  There were many.  I just did the best that I could.  I was just happy that I knew them.  Since I began to paint, I do not feel I'm in competition with other artists and instead revel in their accomplishments.  When I write, I do not compare my writing on a scale against other authors.

In those quite moments, I feel reassured that good people will carry the day.  When I say good people, I don't mean goody two shoes; I mean people who do the best they can---the best they can in their jobs, in their families, in their communities.

Thank the Lord the world doesn't depend on me.  What a false hope that would be.