September 25, 2013: Attracting Flies

~by Louis Templeman

“Man! I got troubles like a landfill’s got flies.” That’s what my old friend once said. And, that’s how I feel right now. Complaints are noisy. Long before I speak them I hear them screaming in my head. It is like a spirited mental tendinitis. If I pay too close attention to the noise it drones on like the musical score of my day. Buzzing around my head like flies.

There are appropriate times to speak of troubles. Speaking of them in the wrong place and too often will turn them into complaints. When I complain good company scatters. No one likes whining. This draws another fly: loneliness.

I could fill a page with disappointments, betrayals, guilt, bad luck broken promises, regrets, sins, failures, loss and fears. I could call them up and soon I’d be like a pile of refuse in a landfill. Once troubles are stirred up into complaints they begin to orbit my mind like planets around the sun. Flies are attracted to refuse as complaints are to self-pity, misery, fear and doubt. I know I am not refuse. However, if I act like refuse the Lord of the Flies will be visiting.

Minimizing my complaints will not minimize my troubles. It will however clear the deck for problem solving, gratitude for the good in my life, thoughts about happier things and sympathy for others. Concentrating on complaints will cause my soul to resemble refuse and then, here come the flies.

By age six Helen Keller was little more than a household pet and a bit of a savage. The girl had trouble. She was blind. She was deaf. She was in a perpetual and practical state of isolation and dependency. Only her mother’s love kept her from a dismal asylum. Anne Sullivan was hired to help the girl. With great effort, many trials and real genius she taught the girl to communicate and learn. Helen became one of the great personalities of the 20th Century. She found a way to move beyond her trouble. She quit acting like she was a piece of refuse and began the work of living.

Joni Erickson Tada has been a quadriplegic since 1967. For decades she has captained a ministry that touches the poor and crippled around the world. She has had an influential and successful career as an author, speaker and singer for fifty years. Yet, neither has she been able to scratch her nose, roll over in bed or dress herself for nearly fifty years. To add to her woes she has recently contracted cancer. Her struggles continue. And, so does her work.

Morrie Schwartz, a professor of sociology, contracted ALS. Slowly, month by month he lost use of his muscles beginning with his feet and by increments paralysis moved upward towards his chest which eventually caused a slow death by suffocation. He had serious trouble. Yet he escaped the trap of complaining. Instead, he used his illness as a platform. As it turned out he first reached out to friends and others within his social reach by composing aphorisms of cheerfulness and his positive view of the value of life. His fame fanned out to friends, strangers, a local newspaper columnist and then TV. Ted Koppel interviewed him three times. He also became the inspiration for the bestseller Tuesdays With Morrie. He reached out to millions from the platform of his suffering. Trouble did not alter his self-esteem or his sense of self-worth.

So, I am encouraged to look at my own many troubles in a different light. In them I see another chance to trust in the providence of God, the goodness of life, the value of friends and family, the chance to shine in a dark place. My complaints belong in a landfill. I do not.

~Louis Templeman

Louis writes from Jacksonville, Florida where he lives with his old friend and wonderful bride, Joy. They transformed their friendship into the sacrament of marriage on August 30, 2012. They share their home with two self-absorbed, playful, twin cats (Flo and Jet) and one very allusive and arrogant cat named D.

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