No. 394

Did you hear about the old hillbilly who was making his first trip to the hospital where his teenage son was about to have an operation? Watching the doctor's every move, he asked, "What's that?" The doctor explained, "This is an anesthetic. After he gets this he won't know a thing." "Save your time, Doc," exclaimed the man. "He don't know nothing now." Obviously, what the doctor was saying and what the hillbilly was hearing were two different things. To be sure, knowledge is a wonderful thing and it will take us a long way in life, but knowledge without compassion will cause us to miss the mark. Here is a question that I hope you will ponder with me for a few minutes. What is the longest 18 inches in the world? While you may disagree, I believe the longest 18 inches in the world is the distance between the head and the heart, approximately 18 inches. .
The reason I believe this is true is because of the special people in my life who have made the greatest impression on me. These were not brilliant people, but rather people who loved and cared for me. When I was in the fifth grade in elementary school I had a teacher whose name was Martha Hawley. One day I was cutting up in class and she got on to me. This was in the days before air conditioning and the windows in the room were all up. When she got on to me I got so mad that I tried to jump out of a window. Before I got there, she came over and grabbed me by the neck and took me to the back of the room, made me face the wall and read a book. A few minutes later I propped the book up on the coat hangers and was flipping through the pages.
At this point she snuck up behind me and hit me three licks across the back with a ruler. Come to think of it, my parents never contacted the ACLU and had them file a suit for child abuse. They would have said, "Hit him again if he needs it." Now, here is the rest of the story. Some time during the year my parents made a promise that if I didn't miss a word all year on the spelling tests, they would give me $25.00, which was a lot of money back in 1949. They did not know it at the time, but Miss Martha let me take two of those tests over. Again, come to think of it, they probably did know it. But the point is, I still remember this wonderful teacher because she really cared about me.
Another person that was very special to me was my former Dale Carnegie teacher and business partner, the late Bob Gannaway. Bob was a wonderful role model during the years when I really needed someone who could give me a pattern to live by. Without a doubt, I know that I disappointed him in many ways, but I also knew that he really cared about me. Hope you will forgive me for these personal examples but I wanted to reinforce the fact that the people in our lives who make the greatest impression are those who really care about us. In like manner, it just makes sense that the people who we will make the greatest impression on, are those we rally care about.
No doubt you took note of the fact that I never said anything about these two individuals being smart or having a lot of knowledge, which was certainly the case. Miss Martha had a college teaching degree and Bob was also an attorney. We see people each day of our lives that are brilliant and have a terrific education, yet they fail when it comes to having love and compassion for others. I have known countless people over the years that graduated at the top of the class but had little or no compassion for other people. On the other hand, I have known many others who would literally give you the shirt off their back, but yet they didn't have enough knowledge and common sense to get in out of the rain. Like most things in nature, we need to have a balance of knowledge and compassion to succeed in today's high-tech world.
A few weeks ago I was invited to be the keynote speaker for the state convention of the National Honor Society in our state. In my audience were some of the most gifted and brilliant students in the Arkansas Public School System. These young people, and millions like them across the nation, are the future of this great country. We will certainly need their gifts and intellect if the United States of America is to remain competitive in the important years ahead. With that said, these young people also need to understand that love and compassion for others is the real key to true success and happiness. If you will think about it, I believe you will also conclude that the longest 18 inches in the world is the distance between the head and the heart. Our main purpose as human beings should always be to transfer what we have learned (head knowledge) down to love and compassion (heart knowledge) to make this a better world for all of us. (Jim Davidson is a motivational speaker and syndicated columnist. You may contact him at 2 Bentley Drive, Conway, AR 72034.)