Archive for July 28, 2007

It’s better to dig in than quit

By Terry Pluto, Beacon Journal columnist

The whole world is going to hell….

You may hear that daily.

You may think that when you pick up a newspaper or watch the news — with the stories of child molesters, of twisted murders, of heartless corporate cutbacks and the war in the Middle East.

There even was an alligator in Summit Lake! What’s next? An attack of terrorist penguins?

In the last week, sports page headlines dealt with baseball and steroids, football and dogfighting, basketball and an official who is accused of manipulating point spreads.

This is in the part of the paper that’s supposed to entertain us! It makes scanning a medical journal dealing with gout seem like light reading on a pleasant subject.

Most of the stories contain some truth, and the world is even weirder and scarier than is reported. But don’t believe everything is just “going to hell in a handbasket.”

TIMEOUT: A quick Internet search revealed that no one is sure of the source of that phrase, which I’ve been hearing for years. It has been around since the early 1900s. But in 1629, someone did find a reference to “going to heaven in a wheelbarrow.”

SIDEBAR: Sounds like you can get to hell faster in a handbasket than to heaven in a wheelbarrow. I’m sure there’s a sermon in there somewhere. Just don’t ask me to find it.

ADVICE: Don’t hang around with people who keep insisting the world is hell. The older I get, the less I want to hear people who dwell on this. I do believe the world is an uglier place than it was when I was a kid, and most adults would say the same.

People who claim the world is going to hell — be it by handbasket or a pickup with bad brakes — tend to be self-righteous and have checked out of trying to do anything about it.

Sometimes, you find these people in churches. They can “tsk, tsk.” They can frown. They can make you feel small with their moral superiority as they quotes verses such as the one about “wars and rumors of war” to indicate the end is near.

They expect the worst for everyone and everything, and with that attitude, they are destined to discover it. They sometimes have the sense of history of a gnat, forgetting that the Black Plague wiped out more than 20 million people in Europe — at least a third of the population. That was in the 1300s.

In the middle 1800s, we had slavery and lynchings in this country. We had a Civil War that divided us as a country and left 618,000 dead — and at least twice that many maimed and wounded.

DISCLAIMER: I’m not saying everything today is better. These are scary times, and it is harder for kids today because of all the violence, porn and a generally self-absorbed society that can create spoiled, bratty adults.

CONFESSION: I can act like a spoiled, bratty adult when the line at the store is stuck, or when I just don’t get my way. How dare you put up orange barrels and shut down traffic on my road!

So what’s the point?

This is our world, and we are stuck with it. In John Chapter 17, Jesus prays for his disciples: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world, but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it.”

THE POINT: We don’t have to buy into everything that the world is selling.

I’d rather be around people who are digging in to help people than listening to those who would write us all off as hopeless hedonists.

In his weekly e-mail, Rick Warren (The Purpose Driven Life author) wrote: “Work with those who want to work. (Too many leaders) spend all their time trying to corral the lazy and the apathetic.”

I’ll add the grumpy, bitter and spiritually stuck to that list.

It’s wiser to bring a few people into a wheelbarrow that is headed up than drag everyone down into a handbasket of depression with an attitude.

Terry Pluto can be reached at Sign up for Terry’s free, weekly e-mail newsletter “Direct from Pluto” at