Teach us to number our days carefully so that we may develop wisdom in our hearts.” Psalm 90:12
“Hi. My name is Joe.” My wife Judy and I recently took a trip down to the Florida Keys and Key Colony in particular. The place we stayed was called the Continental Inn. It is a bit of old Florida with twenty or so studio condos combined with a small sand beach and a couple of tiki huts. It is not very crowded, but this was Labor Weekend, and there were more folks there than usual. Being a small place, it seems more like family than it does just a group of people on vacation. It was there under one of the tiki huts that I met Joe.
Joe, his wife, and her sister and husband were down for a long weekend from Juniper, Florida. It was the other couple’s anniversary, and they were there to celebrate. They were sitting near us on the beach, and it wasn’t long before we struck up a conservation. Day one was more like a “Hey, good to meet you and glad you are here.” The next day, we were back on the beach and so were they and it was then that I really got to talk with Joe.
He started by introducing himself again. And then as his story unfolded, I was fascinated. First, I learned that Joe was a Korean War era veteran. While he didn’t actually serve in the war, he did volunteer for service during that difficult time. He chose the Army and proudly served his country. Being a Korean War veteran could only mean he was up in his years…and he was. If I remember right, he was about to turn 84. Thanks for your service, Joe.
Joe used a large walking stick to get around. He told me on day two, rather matter-of-factly, that he was legally blind. That explained the stick. Rather than a white cane he had this large walking stick that came from the Smokey Mountains. I asked him how much he could see, and he explained that at about five feet away I was just a blob. You can imagine my surprise when he told me how he still drove a three-wheel bike around his neighborhood. When I asked him how, he simply said he could see some of the sidewalk and most everyone knew him and kinda stayed out of his way. A little blindness wasn’t going to stop him. Way to go, Joe.
About then, Joe shared with me that he had stage four prostate cancer that had gone into his bones. Almost casually, he said, “And of course, I am on chemo.” What was amazing, was that he didn’t see his cancer as a roadblock or a big deal for that matter. It was simply something that he dealt with—no whining, no complaining. Nope, Joe wasn’t gonna let a little cancer stop him either. You’re amazing, Joe.
All the time we chatted (almost like we were discussing the weather and not cancer and blindness) he was constantly smiling and explaining to me how much he loved life. These speed bumps were just that—bumps on his highway of life. He told me how much he loved people. That is probably why he regularly volunteers at the Veteran’s Hospital, helping guys less fortunate than him. Less.Fortunate.Than.Him. I think it will be a long time before I forget Joe and his big smile, big heart, and great outlook.
There’s one more part of Joe’s story. You see, Joe was a Jesus follower…in fact, all four in the group were. What made Joe standout was his gratitude for each day that God gave him. I couldn’t help but notice that his knees and elbows were covered with bandages and wounds. I can only guess those came from the times his blindness got in the way and his stick couldn’t save him. After our hour conversation I noticed that not one time did he complain about his circumstances. He shared stories of his past with gratefulness and shared his present days with the gusto of healthy 45-year-old. And he was confident of his future too…because he was confident in his relationship with the God who made him.
I know I talk about this verse a lot but that is because it means a lot to me. The author, who happened to be Moses (you might remember him from the time the Red Sea parted), asked God to help us number our days so that we could have a heart of wisdom. He was saying, “God help us to appreciate every day you give us.” It was so very obvious that Joe did exactly that. No, I don’t think he wasn’t the richest guy on the beach that day…unless you number richness not in dollars but in joy, and happiness and love. Joe bore the scars from many a fall, but he shined with the victories of never staying down. I didn’t get around to asking but I bet Joe knew the secret to living out his faith in God. What is that you ask? It’s knowing and believing three small words…He’s got this. Bro. Dewayne