One of the reasons I became a history teacher was because of my fascination with history and especially what we can learn from history. What will history have to say about our world, about you and me? Will we just be a picture in a scrapbook or digital file somewhere or will we be remembered not for what we were but for who we were?
Have you ever wondered what people centuries from now will think about our culture? It, of course, is anybody’s guess. In her book A Fistful of Fig Newtons, novelist Jean Shepherd depicts a group of archaeologists in the distant future who are excavating the remains of New York City. Burrowing under Madison Avenue, the heart of the world of modern advertising, they
discover tin canisters holding reels of videotape containing hours and hours of television
commercials from our time.
The archaeologists determine these reels must have something to say about what was important to us. They finally find a way to view these tapes. They grow excited with
anticipation. One of the videotapes contains a scene in which three women move into the foreground. They are pushing carts of some kind. The three of them stop and reverently pick up some mysterious white circular rolls. Their eyes glaze in ecstasy as they handle the rolls.
A stern male figure arrives, clad in a white uniform. He resembles a guard, or perhaps an officer of some kind–definitely a figure invested with authority. “Ladies,” he says, “please don’t squeeze the Charmin!” The three women continue to squeeze the rolls, with even more
intensity. The guard, overcome by emotion, himself begins to squeeze a roll. One woman squeals: “I just can’t help it, Mr. Whipple.” Nervously the guard squeezes even harder. “See, Mr. Whipple, Charmin’s so squeezably soft!”
Amazed at the apparent significance of this archaeological find, the leader of the
excavation says, “If we can find out what was on those Charmins, or what they were used for, I believe we would know what their civilization was all about, what they believed in.”
Some of you may remember those Charmin commercials. I do hope our culture is about more than bathroom tissue. It does make you laugh… and make you think…
However, it is not just our culture, but do you ever think about how you will be
remembered? When the day comes, what will be said at your funeral? What was your life like?
I like what Welch poet David Whyte once wrote: “I don’t want to have written on my
tombstone, when finally people struggle through the weeds, pull back the moss, and read the inscription there: ‘He made his car payments.’” Do you want to be remembered for more than that?
There is an ancient Egyptian myth which says that, after death, every individual is
confronted with two questions that have to be answered honestly. First, did you find joy? And second, did you bring joy? The first step to joy is letting Jesus into your heart!