Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
Forget the wheel -- imagine the
world without paper!
Once again I am thinking about piles. Like death and
taxes, piles will not go away. So I have been pondering my piles. Why are they
there? What do they mean? What can I learn from my piles?
Aside from a few piles of clothes, what I observe in my
home and my office are piles of paper. Indeed, most of my piles are piles of
Why piles of paper? The obvious answer is that I have
difficulty throwing paper away. Daily stuff comes in the mail that I think I
may need later so I save it. Not all junk mail is junk to me. I open
practically every piece of mail.
There may be a gardening tip, a quotation, or a story
that might be used as a sermon illustration, so I save the papers. Why? Saving
stuff is a family tradition so I keep it going. My parents saved everything –
from rubber bands to paper clips. Even a short piece of string is worth bending
over and picking up; you never know when you may need a piece of string.
Now and then I go through my piles of papers and actually
throw some pieces away, but not the whole pile. I will save some and add to it,
as new papers come to my attention.
I have file drawers full of papers – newspaper clippings
50 years old that I have hauled around just in case I may need one of them for
a story or a sermon. Over the years I have pulled these piles out, intending to
discard them. Then, as I begin looking through them, I decide I cannot part
with them. Why I really cannot say.
I have a file full of sermon notes, some written, some
scribbled on sheets of paper and old envelopes. Some of them date back to the
beginning of my ministry when I began preaching in 1951. Are these notes
valuable? Not to anyone but me, I suppose. Why keep them? Because
I cannot throw them away.
Years ago I read a book about how to get organized and
save time. The author offered several good ideas. I was impressed. One idea I
remember well – try to handle a piece of paper only once! What a challenge that
has been for me. I know I would have fewer piles if I could do that but I read
a piece of paper and then put it in a pile so I can read it again later, and
again, and again.
There is no telling how much I could have accomplished in
my lifetime had I learned now to handle a piece of paper only once. Now, at my
age, I guess it is a bit late to start the habit so I plan to stick with my
plan – handle a piece of paper as many times as I want to.
Glancing at one of my piles, I notice a letter from “Citizens
Against Government Waste.” The writer describes how my
ten dollars has helped save American taxpayers over
$758 billion. My children know I have wasted a lot of money, so I am saving
this letter so one day they will know how I helped fight government waste.
Without this piece of paper they will never know.
In the same pile is a copy of “Imprimis,” the speech
Paper, of course, is important not only to me but to the
entire world. We learn news from our
newspapers. We paste pretty paper on our walls. Our Bibles, magazines, and
books are printed on paper. Our food is wrapped in and protected by paper. The
calendars we use constantly are printed on paper. Neither business nor
government could function without paper.
We use scores of paper products daily in a hundred
different ways. While plastic has made inroads into the paper business, it will
never serve us as many ways as paper does. A birthday card sent by email is
nice but not nearly as treasured as one printed on paper that arrives in the
For writing and drawing, nothing is more widely used than
paper around the world. Everyone knows that paper derives its name from papyrus,
used first 5,000 years ago by the Egyptians, then later by the Greeks and the
Romans. The papyrus plant was abundantly available along the
Paper as we know it, however, was not invented until the
beginning of the second century AD. It seems fitting, since everything seems to
be “made in
Gradually the secret art of papermaking spread to other
countries though it was not introduced in
I mention all this because of the enormous debt we owe to
the discovery of paper. Some say the greatest invention of all was the wheel.
Perhaps so, but imagine what the world would be like without paper! Think how
polluted the air would be if everyone had to communicate by smoke signals.
So what is the meaning of my piles of paper? They tell me
that I am still here, and I am still thinking. That is reason enough for me to
keep them out of the incinerator a while longer. Do what you must with your
own. + + + +