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Self-potrait 1988  A six-year old boy put his name in the box for a drawing at the Grab-It-Here grocery store in Paxton. The prize he was hoping for was the shiny new Schwinn bicycle in the store window. Other prizes were on display, but the bike was the one that had his full attention. A couple of weeks later he learned that his name was drawn. He was a lucky winner, but not the winner of a bicycle. He won a stuffed clown, about half as big as he was. His mother brought it home, and he kept it for many years, since it was and remained the only thing he was lucky enough to win. Some luck, he thought.
Probably many objects attracted his attention and his hopes that he might be lucky enough to gain, but most were insubstantial, and their unimportance made them forgettable. The important things, he realized somewhere along the way, exceeded the realm of luck. To go to college and graduate school and get the scholarships, grants and fellowships to pay for them, to find a loving mate and to have her willing to marry him, even with the poverty and insecurity of the times in which they lived, to study for the ministry and find three churches that would accept him as their pastor, to have children and raise them to be responsible and successful adults—these were beyond the luck of the draw. In applying for a doctoral program, he was asked what he expected to be doing in ten, twenty, thirty years, and he answered that he expected to be a pastor doing his work well, and part of the time he wanted to teach philosophy, ethics, or bible, his academic interests, possibly at a community college, where a variety of ages and interests would be present. He was admitted to the doctoral program, and he completed it.
Ten years later he found himself in emergency rooms, successively on several occasions, until enough information accumulated to provide a diagnosis of the heart problems involved, stemming from childhood infections. The cardiologist told him that if he was lucky, without changing his lifestyle, he would probably live about seven years until he required at least an open-heart surgery. Not believing in luck, he chose to change his lifestyle—eating, drinking, exercising, and dealing with stress.
In all of these matters he was more than lucky, although not one of these was something that he could have completed by himself. If he had been confident enough to call this his life plan, then he also would have to be exceedingly happy to realize that the plan had been fulfilled even beyond his dreams. Now that boy is a seventy-one-year old man, still marveling that he has been, not so lucky, but so blessed to have had his dreams realized, and then some.
The future is still open and unknown, and his aims seem to be transforming the earlier goals into forms that are more limited and manageable in the years to come, according to the strength and breath that remain—still exercising, more slowly, and writing, teaching, finding ways to be helpful to family, friends, and the world beyond.