Saturday, May 21, 2011

Making the Best of You

A middle-aged man decided to take up running. He found a sports shop carrying a wide variety of running shoes. While trying on a pair, he noticed a little pocket on the side of the shoe.

“What’s this thing for?” he asked the sales clerk.

“Oh, that's to carry spare change so you can call a friend to come pick you up when you've jogged too far.”

That would probably never be a problem for me. I know avid runners and gym enthusiasts who can’t wait to get out in the morning and work up a healthy sweat before starting the day. THEY are likely to jog too far. I know others, however, who exercise with a grim determination to get through the workout because they know it’s good for them, like a child forcing down the healthy breakfast cereal when all the while wishing she were eating the sugary bowl advertized on television. Whereas the first group is anxious to work out, the second group needs a good reason to push through the workout session. I find myself squarely in the second group. I cannot imagine myself jogging too far.

Of course, if I begin each morning with an exercise regimen, I feel better all day long. And I know I am healthier. But when I wake up feeling good -- no aches, no soreness, no stiff muscles – I suddenly find good reasons to skip my routine. I am too busy today; I just need some quiet time; there is something else I’d rather do. It is the aching back and stiffness in my neck that prods me to do what I ought to do anyway.

Oddly enough, my sore and aching muscles are probably good for me – they motivate me to take better care of myself. It’s not about just making the best of my aches and pains -- THEY are actually making the best of me.

Abraham Lincoln knew the value that difficulties can bring to a life. One of his cabinet appointees, Edwin Stanton, frequently found flaws with the president and criticized him -- sometimes in public. But Lincoln seemed to show excessive patience with him. The president was asked why he kept such a man in a high level position.

Lincoln characteristically responded with a story. He told about a time he was visiting with an old farmer. He noticed a big horsefly biting the flank of the farmer's horse. Lincoln said he reached over to brush the fly away. As he did so, the farmer stopped him and cautioned, "Don't do that, friend. That horsefly is the only thing keeping this old horse moving."

Even life's many irritations and problems have their place. That horsefly kept the horse moving. Edwin Stanton, no Yes Man, kept the president sharper, honest and self-reflective. My sore muscles and aching back keep me exercising regularly.

Sometimes we make the best of our problems. But how wonderful it is when those problems can make the best of us.

-- Steve Goodier


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