June is one of my months to perform my ushering duties at church. The first Sunday of the month is always a little hectic with more going on at church than other Sundays in the month. Early in the week, I got a call from my buddy and head usher noting that I should try to be there about 30 minutes early.
At about the time I should have been getting to church, I was still trying to steam the wrinkles out of my blazer that I only wear about 4 months out of the year when I’m doing my ushering duties. I was going to be late.
My worst fears were realized…
When I walked in the left door of the sanctuary, two ushers were standing at my left door. I was sick. The left door is mine. Attendance at church is always better on the left side when I am in charge of the left door. Everyone knows it is – because I tell them it is.
As I walked through the left door on my way to pick up my official usher name tag, I told them, “I’ll be back, this is my door.” They looked at me kind of puzzled; I go to large church and everyone doesn’t understand that the left door is mine four months out of the year. I was perfectly willing to forgive them for their lack of understanding.
After hanging my name tag around my neck, I walked out and was met by my buddy – the head usher. He said, “Why don’t you take the right door over there.”
My heart sunk…
I had been demoted to the right door.
It is church; I will do what I’m asked to do. Heading to the right side felt all wrong and as I walked toward the door, I noticed an older short fellow with whom I would be working the right door.
He had a great big smile on his face. I liked him right away and I did not tell him about the left door being more important that the right one.
He looked to be in his early 70’s and he wanted to talk as we handed out the programs for folks coming into the church. I liked that also. He asked me what I did for a living and I told him. He noted that he also had gotten a degree in mathematics at Oklahoma State back about the time I was born.
Being a fellow math guy, I had to ask him about his career, “What did you do with your degree?” This is always an opportunity for the “I hung it on the wall” response. He didn’t say that; he said, “I became a fighter pilot.”
With a short stature and a big grin, I was working the right door with an American Hero. Of course, I used this to justify being late on this day and to understand that quite possibly there was some divine reason I needed to be sent to the right door.
The fighter pilot told me about flying many missions, but mostly told me about all the folks he has had the opportunity to help after he sold the businesses he had owned in town and retired. It was nice. There are so many people out there in our communities that genuinely enjoy helping others.
Don’t ever let the stature of a fellow fool you. He could be one of those fellows who ride race horses or a fighter pilot.
The next night, I was called into an emergency situation at the whiteboard in my office. My son was kind of in a panic mode preparing for his math quiz the next day. I usually relish these moments, but I was kind of in a squirming mode because I had to use his book to remember some things. I have a hard time with my son seeing me do this.
Lawyers can say, “I’m not that kind of lawyer.” Doctors can say, “That’s not my specialty.” Accountants can say, “I’m not familiar with the rules for that type of business.”
However, a math guy is expected to know everything about every mathematical topic ever known to man. You are also expected to do it without a book. It just doesn’t work that way. I don’t remember everything I was taught in high school and college. Some math topics still cause me to get a little queasy.
Equations can get long and tall...
My son and I worked it all out; I needed a book and a few videos from the internet. Then my son asked me the question people and students ask me all the time, “Where am I going to use all this math stuff.”
A few things went through my head…
Things like, “All this math stuff puts a roof over your head, feeds you and pays for the music you seem to be unable to live without.” I also thought about telling him about the short fellow at church who was a fighter pilot. I could have gone into many of my explanations of how the value of math is not necessarily in the outcome, but the logic it takes to get the answer.
I did not. I simply said that it had many applications in science and physics and circuses (because we had been working on problems involving tightrope walkers).
I appreciate short people who fought for our country (and tall ones) and I also appreciate all my former math teachers and professors who have helped me pay the mortgage through the years.
Read more stories at www.CranksMyTractor.com.