Tony Woodlief | Author

Thin and Happy

Something about being in charge is that to do my job well I have to make someone unhappy every day. If you put enough people in an organization, you almost guarantee that at any moment someone will feel that the pay/workload/recognition/criticism is too low/high/infrequent/unfair compared to what they do/need/want/could get somewhere else/see someone else doing/getting/taking. Like most people, I want to be liked, so I don’t enjoy this.

What I’m learning, though, is that if you try to make everyone happy in the short run, you end up getting little done, which leaves most people unhappy in the long run.

I traveled to 9 cities in 23 days last month. I don’t know if the three return trips also count, though the miles are just as hard coming or going. I hardly wrote anything during that time, which disappoints me. Sometimes I think if I just stretch myself a little thinner, then I can make the time to write. That’s what real writers do, right?

I don’t know. Sometimes writing is just breathing for me. I’m better off when I do it. But time is so precious. I sleep 4-6 hours at night to get the work done and still be there like a good husband and father is supposed to be. Most of the time I feel like I fail at it anyway. I let friendships wane, and reading go undone, and only squeeze in the writing when I can’t hold my breath any more.

I remind myself it’s just a season. I want to kick myself, though, when I think about how I spent my time years ago. Nine hours of sleep a night, television, lounging around — oh, the hours I wasted! If only there were some bank into which we could place the time, just to keep it safe from the days when we don’t know how to use it properly. In our maturing years we could withdraw it when we look at our children and see them getting older almost overnight.

Caleb is quite the diligent student in our home school. One day he was scribbling in random colors, and the next he is drawing people and writing his name. Yesterday I came home and found a picture on our refrigerator: two little smiling stick people with triangular bodies and big heads, holding hands. Under the slightly bigger body was scrawled “Caleb,” and under the smaller body was “Eli.” Eli does his best to keep up, and my wife is good about giving him work to do too, so when I come home they rush to the door to show me their school work.

Short of seeing them pray together, and seeing one take care of the other when there are tears, I can’t think of any sight that gives me greater joy.

Caleb had his “five birthday” a few weeks ago. We had a little party here in Virginia, and then because I was traveling so much I took the whole family to Wichita to deposit them for a couple of weeks, which meant another party with his Kansas friends. The day before that second party, he began to quiz me about the amount of presents he was likely to get.

“Caleb, you got most of your presents at the Virginia party. This is a friend party.”

“But, but, but, will there be presents?”

“There will be a couple.”

“How many?”

“A couple. Two.”

“Only two presents?”

“Yes, and you should be thankful.”

“Well, that is very, very sad. Do other people only get two presents when they turn a number?”

I found myself going down the path of telling him to be thankful because children in China don’t have enough rice to eat. It’s amazing how our parents didn’t know anything when we were kids, yet they get wiser as we age. Take that infamous parent reason for obedience: “because I said so.” Who didn’t hate that rebuttal, that unreasoned muzzle on further debate?

Yet now I think it’s one of the best things a child can learn. Because I said so. I said it, thus it is so. Don’t argue, for I have spoken.

Because. I. Said. So.

Brilliant. Subtle, yet authoritative. It’s especially useful when you realize, as I have, that your five year-old is a better attorney than you. That boy is bound for the legal profession. We should therefore pray for his soul, and pity his future opponents in the courtroom. Or perhaps he’ll end up a preacher. He’s lately taken it upon himself to evangelize to Eli, who is unashamed to say what many of us feel at times.

“Eli, is Jesus in your heart?”


“You should invite him in. He wants to be there.”

“But he’s not.”

“He just wants to love you and take care of you forever.”

Eli informs us that though Jesus is not in his heart, the King of kings and Lord of lords is in his shirt. I don’t know how Jesus got there, but Eli tells us that is where he currently resides. I suppose this is progress.

For all my complaints, I’m storing up these memories. I’m living a good life. So who needs sleep?

On Key

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