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May 12, 2021 -- "There Has to Be a Better Way"

Between the ages of one and four, my family lived in a duplex in Eau Claire. One day my neighbor Greg (who was three years older than me), who lived on the other side of the duplex, and I, decided that it was a lot of work walking out of our door, going four feet to the other person’s door, and knocking on the door, to see if the other was available to play.

There had to be a better way.

If you watch “Shark Tank” on T.V., you know they use that phrase a lot: “There has to be a better way.” They say it is the first step in entrepreneur growth: 1. find a problem. 2. Say, “There has to be a better way.” 3. Solve the problem. 4. Make a million dollars. But, from personal experience, I can tell you that this can also lead to all kinds of trouble.

Greg pondered what a “better way” might be, and came to find that the basement wall between the two households, was only drywall. Therefore, his suggestion was that we make a hole. That way we could just walk into each other’s homes when we wanted to play. Sounded good to me and so we went to work. Soon we had a four-foot hole in the wall.

I was the first use it. After supper, I made my way down our steps, went through the opening we made and came up the basement steps of Greg’s house. When I opened the door Greg’s mom was washing dishes. Her back was to me. I called out, “Hi, Mrs. Smith.” She let out a scream and almost dropped the plate she had in her hands. Spinning around with a look of terror on her face, she saw it was me, and her fear turned to confusion. Catching her breath, she was finally able to speak. “Danny, how long have you been in our basement?”

“Only a second,” I said with pride. Then with great excitement I showed her the amazing thing Greg and I had done.

That’s when I found out that our “better way” wasn’t nearly as amazing as we thought. In fact, it soon became an incident that involved my mother (thankfully my dad wasn’t home – he was a State Patrol officer on duty).

“Jean!” Mrs. Smith said immediately after my mother opened the front door (she refused to save time and go through our new opening), “do you have any idea what Danny and Greg did?”

Now you have to understand my mom. She was a peacemaker from the get go, and conflict was not her strong suit. After learning what we had done and going into the basement to see it for herself, she immediately began apologizing, and apologizing, and apologizing, and apologizing again.

To her credit, Greg’s mother, immediately picked up on how my mother was. So, after she heard an apology for the tenth time, she walked over to my mom, gave her a hug and said, “Jean, stop apologizing. It wasn’t your fault, and it isn’t a big deal. We can fix it.”

Five minutes later, Mr. Smith looked over our work, went to the hardware store, and had a new piece of drywall up before it was time for me to go to bed.

It wasn’t until I was older that I came to appreciate how Mrs. Smith not only was able to read my mother, but help her get over her anxiety. I’m sure if her husband had said that night, “I’ll get some drywall tomorrow,” she would have said, “No, you have to go now.” She knew my mother wouldn’t get a wink of sleep, and knew how hard it would be for her to tell my Dad about our attempt at a “better way.”

That doesn’t mean that “There has to be a better way,” isn’t still valid. I learned from Mrs. Smith a better way to deal with people and situations: 1. Understand them. 2. Love them. 3. Place yourself in their shoes. 4. Show compassion. 5. Fix it.

Now if you read the above five steps again, you probably can see Jesus all over it.

Yes, there truly is a better way – the way of Jesus.

~ God bless, Dan

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