Really can’t judge book by its cover

BY BOB WACHS, Columnist
Posted 6/19/20

Life, it’s been said, is a funny teacher.

Not funny as in funny “ha-ha” but funny as in how things come around, sometimes in sort of an ironic way. Life, unlike my high school algebra …

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Really can’t judge book by its cover

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Life, it’s been said, is a funny teacher.

Not funny as in funny “ha-ha” but funny as in how things come around, sometimes in sort of an ironic way. Life, unlike my high school algebra teacher, for instance, gives the test first and then the lesson. Mrs. Johnston, on the other hand, gave us the lessons first and then we had the test but that didn’t help much — at least for me.

I say all that to point out I’ve had a few mental light bulbs to come on lately in that regard. One of them has been that what we see on the outside of folks may not be what’s happening on the inside where they’re really living.

Every day, I believe, we come in contact with folks who may be smiling like a clown outside but inwardly they’re dying. And every day, we may be, to others, one of those folks who are smiling on the outside but dying inside.

Some of that, I’m convinced, has to do with the drastic change in life we’ve experienced since earlier in the year when an illness most of us previously had never heard of drove many of us to “shelter in place.” With that for many people came the loss of jobs, income, independence, self-worth and a reason to get up in the morning. We will be a long time in learning the long-lasting effects of this as those effects show up in such places as child abuse, depression and suicides.

You see, laughing on the outside but crying on the inside can be caused by any number of issues, including physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. Some such as the coronavirus can cause distress in all of those areas. If, for instance, someone is physically ill from the virus, hospitalized, out of work and financially distressed, he or she may find his or her mind struggling just to stay afloat while wondering where is God in all this.

For me, the outside-inside realities were more physical, although nothing exists in a vacuum. Years ago, when my dad was on this side of the Great Divide and I was a mere child, I would sometimes plead with him to play catch or throw the ol’ pigskin around. And sometimes he would oblige, even though he’d put in a hard day putting food on the table. But other times he’d say something to the effect of “I’d like to but I don’t feel like it.”

More than one time when he would say that, I would say to him something like, “You don’t look sick.” And to that he would reply, “I’m not sick; I just hurt.” And then he would throw out the warning: “One day you’ll probably know what I mean.”

He was right.

That day is here.

I do.

Both he and my mother decided they wanted me and my two older brothers to remember them daily so they gave us genes laced with a dose of arthritis.

And we do... Remember them, that is.


Now I’m not saying this in this space to ask you to send me a “get well” card. I’m not sick. If you want to send a box of chocolate chip cookies, well ...that might be a different story.

Rather, I say this to point out what I used to know as the obvious intellectually I now know as the obvious by experience. And while I might look OK (I hope) on the outside sometimes on the inside I’m not a happy camper. The obvious good news is that for me and others with this same issue there are options for getting better. And I’ve had several of them involving a surgeon and a knife over the past several years and I’m tickled pink things worked out as well as they did. They have brought me some relief that is not spelled “R-O-L-A-I-D-S,” as the old television commercial said, and that eventually hopefully I can go out with somewhat of a bang rather than a whimper.

However, I know the jury is still out on the virus and the final answer won’t be written for some time, maybe years even. To me, that’s where I need something that’s bigger than me, even something I don’t completely understand. That’s where faith in God comes in.

I’m a big believer in what The Book says that good can come out of bad if we will let it. Actually, what the Book says is that God will help us discover the good when there’s bad if we want to discover it and we’ll let it happen. The obvious good for me physically here is that there are some things I did that helped. But the bigger good news may be that I can become a bit more sensitive and a bit less judgmental about other folks.

I haven’t walked, as our Native American ancestors said, “a mile in their moccasins.” I’m going to try to do more of that and less jumping to conclusions, try to find out how things really are, if I can and they will let me.

So, excuse me for a moment while I grab a BC powder for my joints which still ache — but let me not forget that for some folks, the healing is going to take more than a tablet or two and a few minutes.

Let me be found guilty trying to be helpful to my fellow traveler long the way. May it be so for you, as well. I believe in the end one of the good things to come out of the bad is that we’ll find the “Golden Rule” — treat other folks like you want to be treated — will bring us peace in the midst of the storm.


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