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THE IDLE AMERICAN
Wednesday, June 9, 2010 • Posted June 9, 2010

Through Three-Year-Old Eyes…

In the years between birthdays two and three, youngsters make great cognitive strides, often risking information overload.

At age three, they want to feed zoo animals that scared the "bejabbers" out of them at age two. They’re likely to cozy up to the same mall Santa Claus who reduced them to tears a year earlier. At birthday time, they feel more than equal to handling honoree chores without parental guidance.

Before party time, they’re well-drilled on ritual sequences. "First, we light the candles," mom says. "And while we’re singing ‘Happy Birthday,’ you may blow them out." (It goes without saying that the honoree’s next order of business is to grab the slice with the most frosting and the most letters from the cake-top greeting.)…

* * * * *

Our Addison, who blew out most of the candles at her recent three-year-old birthday party, is a world-class granddaughter who has joined contemporaries in voicing choruses of "whys" numerous times daily. Her curiosity never takes a holiday.

At mid-party, with some gifts not yet opened, she noticed our puppy munching grass on the lawn.

"Why?" she asked….

* * * * *

I explained that sometimes dogs eat grass to make them feel better. That would have been a good place to stop, but I added, "unlike horses, dogs don’t include grass in their daily diet."

"Horses eat hay," Addison corrected. "And Baby Jesus ate hay, too."

Recently-deceased Art Linkletter, confidant for the children of the world, would have "made hay" with this story….

* * * * *

I met Mr. Linkletter just once. He was a guest on our campus for a few hours in the early 90’s. He was every bit as gracious as he seemed to be on national radio and TV. Whatever ego he may once have had was long since checked at the door.

His smile was disarming and his cheerful countenance comforted like furry house shoes on a cold winter morning.

He spoke with delight of his love for snow skiing, even late in life. "In fact, if I had my ‘druthers,’ I’d depart this life airborne on skiis, in those seconds between sailing off the slope and touching down on the snow run below," he joked….

* * * * *

A long-time friend, though not an entertainer, has a similar countenance. Oh, in a way he entertains, often injecting puns at unexpected times to keep students in his theology classes on their toes. His name is Dr. Gary Gramling, longtime faculty member at Howard Payne University. He is deeply revered by peers and students alike.

During a recent phone visit, he spoke of conducting graveside services for a couple, one for the husband three years ago, the other for the man’s widow earlier this spring. (It should be noted that the hubby’s memorial service was held on a hot July day.)

Dr. Gramling mentioned his commitment to brevity at such services, particularly in extreme weather. "I never speak for more than 10 minutes," he said. "For this couple, remarks likely were 6-7 minutes each, the lengths varying by no more than a few seconds," he emphasized….

* * * * *

On the day of the man’s burial, a mourner fainted near the grave (though soon revived by wet cloths applied to his forehead).

Following the widow’s service this spring, a relative of the deceased couple offered what she considered to be a genuine compliment.

"I’m so glad you conducted this service; your words were wonderful," she said to Dr. Gramling. "Thankfully, they didn’t get the guy who conducted her husband’s service. He spoke so long that a man fainted."…

* * * * *

I’m sure that Dr. Gramling gave her an "Art Linkletter kind" of smile.

He likely was effusive in his thanks, and maybe even patted her shoulder as they walked away.

We all need reminders to avoid taking ourselves too seriously. Proverbs 29:23 so advises: "A man’s pride will bring him low, but the humble in spirit will retain honor."

The officiant’s experience would have made Mr. Linkletter’s face brighten. Adults, no matter how many decades removed from childhood, also "say the darndest things."…

* * * * *

Dr. Newbury is a speaker in the Metroplex. Send inquiries/comments to: newbury@speakerdoc.com. Phone: 817-447-3872. Website: www.speakerdoc.com.

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