One cold and wintry prairie night, a lone motorist had the bad fortune of a flat tire and, to his dismay, discovered that he had no jack or tools to install his spare. The cold and bitter wind removed all possibility of spending the night in the car. Grumbling to himself, the traveler stood uncertainly about, kicking the flat tire in disconsolate despair, when suddenly he noticed a pinpoint of light flickering in the distance.
“It might be a farmhouse,” he thought hopefully. “Perhaps the farmer has a jack that I can borrow.” He wrapped his coat tightly around himself and began to walk. “It’s awfully cold,” he thought. “And it looks a long way to walk. Be a shame if the farmer doesn’t have a jack. In fact, I wonder if it’s a farmhouse at all?”
With these dreary thoughts percolating through his head, the traveler trudged on. As he neared what was indeed a farmhouse, the light suddenly went out.
“Blast!” he muttered. “Just my luck. The old farmer’s probably gone to bed and will be awfully sore at me for knocking at his door this time of night. Besides, I hear these old skinflints are pretty tight with their belongings. He’ll probably want me to deposit my firstborn for his crummy jack.”
“Oh why do these things always have to happen to me?” he grumbled.
By now the traveler had reached the front steps of the farmhouse porch and, having come all this way, despondently thought he might as well go through with his plan. He knocked timidly on the door.
“It figures; the guy is probably deaf.”
He knocked again, this time with a fierceness borne of exasperation.
“C’mon, c’mon, open up. Oh, what’s the use! I should’ve never left home on such a crummy night. I hate winter driving . . . .”
But, just as despair settled over the traveler, there was a shuffling noise inside, followed by some muttering and unlatching of the door.
As the farmer cautiously peered through the crack of the opened door, he was greeted by the sight of a thoroughly cold and disheveled man turning away from his door and calling out over his shoulder in a bitter voice, “Just keep your stupid jack and see if I care!”
Bob heard this story somewhere long ago but can’t remember when or where; so he re-wrote it in his own words, just for fun. He took the title of this column from a line in the 1927 prose poem, “Desiderata,” by Max Ehrmann. It began, “Go placidly amid the noise and haste,” and ended “Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” Readers of a certain age may well remember calligraphy posters of “Desiderata” hanging on bedroom and dormitory walls. The quoted title is a reminder of Jesus’ injunction in Matthew 6 to consider the lilies of the fields and to not worry so much about our lives: what we shall, eat drink, and wear (though it’s probably wise to carry a jack on cold winter nights).
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