Our bank has a branch in our local supermarket. On my way home from work I stopped to deposit a check. One bank representative was waiting on all the customers and the lady two people ahead of me seemed certainly to be conducting her banking for the year. The manager sat at his computer, seemingly oblivious to the crowd waiting for service outside his office.
So after about ten of us were waiting on this one woman to finish her annual trip to the bank, I walked over to his office and asked if he could give us some help (in a very kind voice of course). He said he would be out as soon as he finished.
This took more time than I thought necessary. So I spoke to the others—an increasing number—who were waiting in line and asked them to clap and cheer when he finally came out of his office. They were a little startled at my request, but I gave them a pep talk and they agreed.
When the young man came forth from his sanctuary, we all cheered and clapped. You should have seen the look on his face—it was priceless!
We all face challenging situations which frustrate us. If we try hard enough, we can find a way to make the best of a difficult situation.
A great story that has probably given me more food for thought than any story I have found is about Ben Franklin when he was small. A visitor pulled some change from his pocket and gave it to young Franklin. Later, seeing another boy playing with a whistle, young Ben gave the boy all of his money for it. He played the whistle all over the neighborhood, having great fun until he went into a shop that sold whistles. There he discovered that he could have bought a new whistle for a fraction of what he’d paid.
After that knowledge, the whistle lost its charm.
Later, as an adult, Franklin realized this was an important life principle. He often saw others as well as himself “pay too much for their whistles.”
Two illnesses in my life could have avoided had I taken better care of myself.
As a teenager I spent too much time having fun and working on my basketball skills instead of studying. When I got to college, I realized that honing my study skills would have been time well spent.
We have all seen parents neglect children to spend more time on the job. Those same parents regret that decision when the children are in trouble or simply don’t want to have anything to do with their parents. Those parents may have done well in their professions, but they paid too much for their whistles.
Anytime I see a whistle, I am reminded of that story. When we make choices, whether great or small, we want to be careful not to pay too much for our whistles.
You don’t have to go online to find good jokes or watch David Letterman to find laughter. Simply strike up conversations with people you meet going about your daily activities.
For example, recently we sat down to eat in a local restaurant. I let my wife out and was parking the car. When the server came over to get our drink orders, my wife said, “We’ll both have water and I’ll have iced tea. I don’t know what he’ll drink.”
The server responded, “So what’s he going to do with the water?”
While in Beaufort, South Carolina, last week, my wife and I were eating in an outdoor section of a restaurant. A lady sat down close to us accompanied by a beautiful dog. As we sat eating and watching the dog sitting on the floor by its master, I was impressed by how well-behaved she was.
So I said to the owner of the dog, “Your dog is more well-behaved than most children.”
She said, “Thanks. That’s why my boys are in daycare and the dog is with me.”
You don’t need humor writers or humorists to have something to laugh about. Talk to people and listen for their punch lines. You can’t improve on real people with spontaneous funny dialogue.
In 1895, Booker T. Washington delivered a speech before the Cotton States and International Exposition in Atlanta that later came to be known as the “Atlanta Compromise.” His address was one of the most important and influential speeches in American history, establishing Washington as one of the leading black spokesmen in America.
In the speech, he tells this story:
A ship lost at sea for many days suddenly sighted a friendly vessel. From the mast of the unfortunate vessel was seen a signal: “Water, water. We die of thirst.” The answer from the friendly vessel at once came back: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” A second time, the signal, “Water, send us water!” went up from the distressed vessel. And was answered: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” A third and fourth signal for water was answered: “Cast down your bucket where you are.” The captain of the distressed vessel, at last heeding the injunction, cast down his bucket and it came up full of fresh, sparkling water from the mouth of the Amazon River.
Often times we are dissatisfied with some aspect of our lives; we keep looking for an opportunity to make our lives better elsewhere. Perhaps we simply need to “let down our buckets were we are.”