"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
August 29, 2015
Paul
by Jeff Lindsay

I awoke last night struggling to recall Paul's last name. Paul, the short red-haired man with thick glasses and a thin, imperfect body who limped and struggled with every step. His yoke was obviously hard, his burden was clearly heavy, yet he charmed us with his constant smile, his energy for life, his willingness to keep trying no matter what. What was his last name?

He was the subject of an elaborate dream last night, one of those occasional concoctions with high production values and more elaborate scripting than usual. It had a huge cast (including my beautiful granddaughters with gold hair), a prolonged plot, and even a soundtrack with inspiring music.

The dream began with Paul on another adventure, somehow daring in the miniature car that fit his little frame to participate in a cross-country automobile race. I was soon helping a man fold up the remains of Paul's car after the accident.

"I know you must feel terrible about hitting him. You probably didn't know him, but Paul was such a wonderful person. Lived such a great life he. He, he …"

Then I paused in the dream to ponder how to describe Paul. I realized that he had few of the normal accomplishments that would go on a résumé. No impressive credentials in the business world, no advanced degrees, no companies he had founded or organizations he had led, little in the way of wealth.

Based on his status in the world, his wealth, his heritage, his résumé, and his genes, he was an easy person to overlook, perhaps almost as easy to ignore as a drifting, penniless Carpenter's Son long ago.

"Wonderful person" was about all I could tell the man, yet I knew there was much more. The way Paul loved others, inspired them with his example, kept us cheerful, and reminded us there is something much more to life than our wealth (which is good news, because may have a lot less of it shortly when the current market rout is finished, followed by creative emergency government measures to fix various problems they've created).

As the man folded up the remains of Paul's tiny car, there were two long electrical cords trailing, one red, one blue, obvious remnants from a random Mr. Bean video that was playing while I had lunch this week at a favorite Chinese restaurant called Memory.

In the image that stuck, Mr. Bean had been pushing his trademark yellow VW bug with two jumper cables trailing behind.

I left the rather tidy scene of the accident and was soon met by messengers informing me that Paul had passed away in a hospital. I moved on to a large theatre where thousands were gathering, apparently to watch a big Chinese theatrical production, but actually many among the crowd were there now to remember Paul and celebrate his life.

And the rumor was out: some angels were attending also, and I almost think I saw some. "What a wonderful life," his friends said.

As I awoke struggling to recall his name, I quickly realized that Paul was a composite of many inspiring people I know and have known, all of whom were able to be surprisingly cheerful and full of hope in spite of severe physical limitations.

One friend with bad bones and eyes, another missing a leg but more active and dauntless that I've ever been, one constrained to a wheelchair in need of heavy assistance, and one born with Down Syndrome who went on to get a job, to gain the Melchezidek Priesthood, and to serve energetically in various Church callings. All these Pauls teach us that faith, hope, and charity are the core of life, not our degrees and bank accounts.

Their love for others and their insistence on cheerfully going forward in faith inspire me. These are great souls, the kind whose lives we should celebrate. Sadly, there are too few Pauls in China, where a sad lack of understanding about the sanctity of life has left few parents with the wise courage to accept the precious gifts in imperfect bodies that the Lord has tried to send.

Physical burdens can be depressing and overwhelming, so I don't know how the Pauls I know maintain such faith and hope, and how so many of them seem cheerful as often as they do. I am not ready to be a Paul.

One thing about the Pauls I know, though, that seems to make them different from others with similar disability but radically different dispositions, is that my Pauls, as far as I can tell, grew up with loving parents who encouraged them to grow, push the limits, and find meaning in life.

Nurtured in love, taught that they were a precious gift from God, they were given a perspective that helped them become something much more than we might have imagined. Thank God for loving parents who find the courage and love to welcome God's gifts into their home.

As I reflected on Paul and my strange dream, infused with sorrow, hope, inspiring orchestral music and a touch of Mr. Bean, I recalled a poem I recently read by an outstanding LDS poet, James Goldberg, in his book, Let Me Drown With Moses:

The Kingdom of God

Is not the feast. It's the cry that goes out
An echoes through the streets that you
And I and all the beggars have been summoned
Tonight to the sovereign's table.

The kingdom of God

Is not the ship. It's the cord hanging off
The ship's side, the feeling of waterlogged
Rope against the hands when you
And I are drowning.

The kingdom of God

Is not the tree. It's a seed so small
It can slip between our fingers --
any moment we may forget,
tomorrow we might wake and wonder
if we ever held it at all.

The Pauls of the world will be privileged guests at the master's table. But now they struggle, struggling to grasp the waterlogged rope, but knowing what ship they are clinging too, while the rest of us easily forget and don't even recognize that we, too, are drowning and in need of rescue.

They remind us to nurture small seeds, and to not overlook small and simple things that are God's greatest gifts, just waiting for the next sprouting and the season of endless growth.

For more from Jeff Lindsay, see Mormanity at http://mormanity.blogspot.com and his Mormon Answers section at http://jefflindsay.com/LDSFAQ/.


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About Jeff Lindsay

Jeff Lindsay has been defending the Church on the Internet since 1994, when he launched his LDSFAQ website under JeffLindsay.com. He has also long been blogging about LDS matters on the blog Mormanity (mormanity.blogspot.com). Jeff is a longtime resident of Appleton, Wisconsin, who recently moved to Shanghai, China, with his wife, Kendra. He works for an Asian corporation as head of intellectual property. Jeff and Kendra are the parents of 4 boys, 3 married and the the youngest on a mission.

He is a former innovation and IP consultant, a former professor, and former Corporate Patent Strategist and Senior Research Fellow for a multinational corporation.

Jeff Lindsay, Cheryl Perkins and Mukund Karanjikar are authors of the book Conquering Innovation Fatigue (John Wiley & Sons, 2009).

Jeff has a Ph.D. in Chemical Engineering from Brigham Young University and is a registered US patent agent. He has more than 100 granted US patents and is author of numerous publications. Jeff's hobbies include photography, amateur magic, writing, and Mandarin Chinese.

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