Saturday, June 2, 2012

Don’t do that, you’ll hurt yourself

Pointing to health concerns, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg[1] declared war on large sodas and other sugared drinks this week. I won’t bore you with the details of the proposed ban. If you are interested, more information on what is/is not banned follows[2].

Reaction has been swift and loud as “talking heads” all over the media and internet have responded into two basic camps;

On the one hand, there is significant evidence that sugary drinks are the largest driver of rising calorie consumption and obesity. Sweet drinks are linked to long-term weight gain and increased rates of diabetes and heart disease. The data relating to weight and health is without question, the Surgeon General reports that nearly 2 out of every 3 Americans are overweight or obese[3].
On the other hand, people don’t appreciate more governmental influence and restrictions. They cannot stomach someone telling us what we can or cannot drink, especially when it comes to soda. Someone called it our American “unalienable right” to life, liberty and the pursuit of beverage happiness.

The firestorm will eventually quiet down, and we’ll move onto something more immediate. But there is an underlying thought to this discussion that needs examination;

“Don’t do that, you’ll hurt yourself.”

I remember those words of warning from my mom and dad so well. “Don’t do that Chet, you’ll hurt yourself.” If I heard it once, I heard it a million times.

One day my mom asked why I was going down into the basement. With unlimited excitement I explained my great plan to build a skateboard from a 2-by-4 piece of lumber and an old pair of skates. Not wanting to stifle my creativity, she said it was fine but to “be careful and don’t hurt yourself.”

With that advice tucked away somewhere in the back of my brain, I descended into the mysterious cave known as “the basement.” I entered my dad’s spotless workroom, which was sufficiently sanitary to saw wood or perform open-heart surgery. Assembling the resources to build my engineering masterpiece, I was confident that it would make me the envy of Carney, MD.

I imagined myself as one of those doctors performing open heart surgery in front of adoring surgeons, nurses and an audience of millions on TV.

  • Stage 1: saw the 2-by-4 to exact specifications of “about this long”
  • Stage 2: grasp the skate as if it were a live beating heart, cradle it expertly in my ever-so-clean preteen boy hand
  • Stage 3: skillfully separate one roller-skate into two equal sections
  • Stage 4: firmly affix each section of the newly separated skate on either side of the 2-by-4 with 4-inch steel nails
  • Stage 5: and this was the most critical from a public relations and “cool factor” standpoint, paint the skateboard Chinese Red with a white racing stripe

Like Hawkeye Pierce in M.A.S.H. emerging triumphantly from surgery, I ascended from the basement full of self-satisfaction and confidence. I bore all the marks of surgical success; sweat on my forehead, grease and Chinese Red paint on my hands, pants, shirt, face and shoes.

Taking my newly minted skateboard, I ran up the street to where the sidewalk started. I confidently dropped the skateboard onto the concrete while giving a quick gaze and nod to all my adoring fans (my neighbor’s dog burped and scratched himself in recognition.) I jumped on the skateboard and began my ride into history.

  • WARNING: What you are about to read is dangerous. It should not be attempted without adequate education, expert advice or protective gear (helmet, goggles, shoulder pads, arm pads, elbow protectors, wrist guards, gloves, ankle supports, knee pads and athletic supporter.) This is not for the faint of heart, uninformed or novice. This historical account was originally performed by someone who had absolutely no earthly idea what he was doing and potential consequences or harm to his body or psyche.

As I began to pick up speed, the adrenalin rush moved my excitement to worlds unknown. I heard the click-click of the wheels as they rolled across the expansion joints in the sidewalk (take note to remember the expansion joints). I stretched out my arms as if to fly. I looked like Jack Dawson on the bow of the Titanic yelling, “I’m the king of the world!” Little did I know that I was about to perform my own personal reenactment of the Titanic.

Remember those expansion joints in the sidewalk?  The front wheels ran into one that created a small but important rise in the sidewalk. It was only a half inch, but that made all the difference in the world. I was rolling forward at a rapid pace when the wheels (and attached skateboard) came to an abrupt halt, creating a test for the laws of physics. The laws passed with flying colors, I lost and just started flying.

The skateboard stopped dead while I did an impromptu impersonation of Superman soaring over Gotham City. This was not a silent pantomime of the Man of Steal, this came with an bloodcurdling, earth-shattering, scream.  Time does not permit me to adequately describe the emotions (fright and horror) followed by pain (scraped knees and assorted bruises and contusions) ending in tears, embarrassment and permanent emotional scaring which I bear to this day.

My mom’s words of prophecy always seemed to come true, “Don’t do that Chet, you’ll hurt yourself.”

Yet, when I came screaming into the house, she did not remind me about the prophecy, laws of physics or gravity. She did not quote from Newton’s Three Laws of Motion; how an object in motion stays in motion, how there is a reaction for every action, or the relationship between an object's mass, its acceleration and applied force.

No, her response was more practical and relational. She carefully rolled up my pant legs, cleaned my self-inflicted wounds while trying to comfort me. Applying a disinfectant and non-stick Band-Aids, she hugged me. When the tears subsided she assured me that while it still hurt, everything was going to be OK. Wiping my eyes I looked up into hers, there was an assurance that she knew what she was talking about. My manhood repaired, I screwed up my courage and went back outside.

Many years have passed yet my eyes still well up as I think about my mom and this memorial incident in my early life.

Yes, I did something that was dangerous and warned about. Yes, I was hurt due to my own decision and actions. Yes, I deserved the pain. Yet I received more comfort and healing than I deserved, enough not to quit, but to go out and try again.

I immediately think about more serious decisions and actions in my life. How I’ve done and said terrible things that hurt me, my family, those I love, friends and even total strangers. But not only have I hurt people on planet Earth, I’ve turned away from God, inflicting indescribable emotional and relational pain on the one that made me and loves me so.

When I’m honest with myself, I have no defense, no mitigating circumstances, no one to blame but myself. I am responsible for my own actions. And, if you will permit me, I'm also responsible for my response to words and actions from others. My conclusion is that I've earned and deserve more pain and punishment than I've received. I am guilty before the court of people and God.

It was to repair and restore our brokenness that Jesus came. He is God from eternity past; sitting on the throne of heaven he received worship. Yet he was willing to give that all up to come and pay a price of undeserved pain to heal our broken and arrogant spirits, restoring our relationship with God starting now and moving into all eternity[4].

Jesus offers us this kind of restoration and relationship right now. He came to give and renew our life, both now and forever[5]. I was not going to pull away from my mom; her comforting words and healing touch. How then can we turn away from Jesus, the one that wants to hold us, comfort us, heals and renews?

Chet Gladkowski writes on contemporary topics that impact our lives, culture and faith. - email, Facebook & Twitter - blog
GladAssociates - YouTube

[1] Michael Rubens Bloomberg, born February 14, 1942 is the 113th Mayor of New York City. He earned his undergraduate (Johns Hopkins-1964) followed by an MBA from Harvard Business School (1964). With a net worth of $22 billion, he is the 11th richest person in the United States.
[2] Any sugary beverage larger than 16 ounces would no longer be legal to sell.  The ban would apply only to drinks that contain more than 25 calories per 8 ounces. It would not apply to diet soda or any other calorie-free drink. The ban also excludes drinks that are at least half milk or milk substitute. The ban would restrict both full/fast food restaurants, movie theaters, sports venues and street carts. It does not apply to drinks sold in grocery or convenience stores. It would apply to bottled drinks as well as fountain sodas.
[4] Romans 5:6-11
[5] John 10:10

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