I want to be just like Mr. Pinson

This is part two of a series about Jim Pinson and his wife, Henrietta. Jim is an 84- year old retired mail carrier who was admitted to hospice for congestive heart failure. Jim sees others through eyes of grace, mercy and respect. He thanks God for his “wonderful” children, “precious” grandchildren and great grandchildren, and for his wife,” the best woman in the world.” Jim has helped me see more clearly that, “The lamp of the body” truly is the eye and that if your eye is good, “your whole body will be full of light.” (Matthew 6:22-23).

Jim used a unique approach when he proposed to Henrietta. I think he wanted to minimize the risk of rejection. He and Henrietta recounted, “We walked over on the levee to the flood wall and I asked her to walk out on the flood wall ahead of me. When I got her out there, there was no way back but through me. So I asked her to marry me or I’d throw her in the brink.” Henrietta explained, ”I looked to the right and then to the left and the water was really swirling. I could swim, but not that good. So I agreed to marry him.”

Jim’s approach to breaking his smoking habit was also pretty unique. Jim reflected, “I smoked for 40 years, Pal Malls, the long ones. I was delivering mail to a house and a lady I knew was sitting on her front porch. She asked me, ‘Do you have a minute?’ I said, ‘Sure!’ And she said, ‘I’m really proud of my boy (age nine or 10). I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up and he told me, ‘I want to be just like Mr. Pinson.’ Jim added, “And there I was delivering mail with a cigarette in my mouth. I didn’t realize how it was working on me until I got home. I started smoking one cigarette after another in defiance and I told my wife that I didn’t think I’d go to church that night. She said that if I didn’t go that she and the kids weren’t going either. My dad always told me, ‘Don’t send your kids to church, take them to church.’ So I went to church.

I smoked a cigarette on the way. When I got to the church door I inhaled real big, flicked the cigarette out, stepped into the church and blew out the smoke. One of the deacons said, ‘Hey, you can’t do that in here!’ I told him, “There isn’t anyone in this church big enough to stop me.” Now that’s defiance, isn’t it? I wiggled in my seat all through the service. The preacher asked if there were any unspoken prayer requests and I raised my hand up. I told the Lord, ‘If you take this habit away from me I’ll never hold another cigarette in my hand.’ I’d asked before, but never in earnest, not in desperation. You have to mean it. God knows if you really mean it.”

Self-righteous, self-centered, selfishly ambitious goals are frequently not sufficient to motivate us to change. Sometimes it takes seeing how our actions affect those we love. We’re just fooling ourselves when we say, “It’s not hurting anyone but me.” All of our actions and inactions have ripple effects. And true change isn’t psychological, intellectual or even constitutional, it’s attitudinal, positional, and spiritual. That’s why King David said, “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and contrite heart. These, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17) and, “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit.” (Psalm 34: 18)

The first two steps of the “Twelve Steps” of Alcoholic’s Anonymous state, “We admitted we were powerless and “We came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.” So if you’ve been unsuccessfully struggling to change yourself, you might consider simply and earnestly praying, “God help me!”

John Bunyan, the 17th century English writer and preacher wrote his classic book, “Pilgrims Progress” from a prison cell. He was imprisoned for 12 years simply because he refused to stop preaching the gospel. And while in prison he also wrote, “I’ve found that it’s not a bad thing to be on your knees before God with your arms around Jesus.” (“Grace Abounding to the Greatest of Sinners”) I would agree.

Loren Hardin is a social worker with Southern Ohio Medical Center – Hospice and can be reached at hardinl@somc.org or 740-356-2525.


Straight Paths

Loren Hardin