One of the favorite projects I enjoy giving my students from time to time – not every term, but every so often – is the opportunity to work together with their other classmates in putting together a puzzle. That project sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But the truth is that I will most often throw a little wrench into the project to make it just a tad more difficult.
Now those wrenches may be something as simple as putting the puzzle in the wrong box so that the picture on the box does not match the picture in the puzzle. Or another one is dividing the class into two sections, giving each of them a different puzzle to work on, but mixing the pieces of both puzzles together, then dividing them into the two boxes, and having the two teams put together the puzzle for their box. It is interesting how long it takes the students to realize they not only have to work together within their group to put together their puzzle, but they also have to work together with the other group to put together each of their own puzzles.
But probably the most frustrated I have ever seen my students is when they go to all the trouble to complete the puzzle, only to discover that there is one piece of the puzzle that is missing. They cannot complete the assignment because they are missing one small piece. And it is especially nerve-wracking if that piece is Waldo in the puzzle entitled “Where’s Waldo?”
Bunkie Knudsen grew up in a very well-to-do family. His father was the president of General Motors. But he was not pampered or spoiled by his parents at all. In fact, like many parents they did what they could to delay the inevitable. From the time he was an early teenager he began asking his father for a car. And like most parents, his father declined that request. Well, at least until Bunkie was 14 years old. His father decided to give him not just any car, but a brand new 1926 Chevrolet prototype, a car that was not even in production yet. He handed his son the keys to this brand new vehicle and watched Bunkie as he bolted toward the garage. But what Bunkie found there was a shock to his system. On the floor of that garage bay was a brand new vehicle for sure – unassembled.
Spread all over the floor were 10,000 parts (give or take a few) that when properly assembled would indeed form that 1926 Chevy. His dad told him he could have the car if he put it together himself. Bunkie plowed into that project and in only a matter of months had assembled the vehicle to a running condition, and even taught himself how to drive it.
I often wonder about Bunkie and that project. What would he have done if one part had been missing? How would he have responded? And would the vehicle have run properly?
You know, we live in a time when “the importance of one” is either underplayed or else it is overplayed. By underplayed, I mean that often we find people who do not consider themselves or what they do to be significant or valuable in any way. They spend their days just clocking in and clocking out and in between not caring one iota about their job. They have a poor self-image and honestly believe that no one would ever take them or their thoughts and opinions seriously.
But by overplayed I mean that there are those individuals who think so highly of themselves that they believe they alone can insist upon their rights and force things to happen. In many cases, they seem to succeed, at least in the short run. For example, one person can protest the lack of handicapped or disability parking spaces and a legislative response forces companies to accommodate their needs. Hence, companies are now forced to provide so many more spaces for the disabled that everyone else has to hike a country mile to get to the facility. Please do not misunderstand these comments. I am not saying there should not be those spaces. I’m just emphasizing the “importance of one.”
On a more positive note, one person, a military veteran to be sure, saw a tattered American flag flying above a business in the community and requested that the flag not be flown in that condition. It was promptly removed and has not been raised since, because the expense of the flag was too great to be accommodated at the moment.
The “importance of one” is a key theme of the Bible as well as life. Repeatedly in the Scriptures we are told how one person made a difference. Again, let’s think about a few examples: In the very beginning of time, Eve is one person who made a difference. But her one act of disobedience plunged the world into sin. Noah was one man who made a tremendous difference in the world he lived in. Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Elijah and a myriad of others all made significant contributions to the “importance of one.” Others were on the other side of that importance, people like Achan and Rehoboam to name just a couple.
There is an old adage that goes something like this: “You know you are important to God. If you were the only person alive on earth, He would still have sent Jesus to die on the cross for you.”
While I am not too sure about the theological truth of that statement, I understand the intent.
My friend, you are important to God. Won’t you turn to him and allow Him to minister to you in your time of greatest need? That would bring the greatest pleasure to Him. And it would not be bad for you as well. And there are no pieces missing either.
Chuck Tabor is a religion columnist for The Times-Gazette. He also serves as pastor of Port William UMC.