I lived the first 5 years of my life on a farm in rural Henry County, Missouri. I have many wonderful memories of those years, but one memory involved my first experience of seeing an airplane. One late morning, I was out in the yard waiting for my Dad to get in from the fields for lunch. As I was standing there, I heard a "Putt, putt, putt," and I started looking for my Dad to drive up on the tractor. But there was something different about this sound. It seemed to be coming from overhead, yet I could not see what was making it.
With all the enthusiasm of a 5-year old, I told my parents at lunch about my experience, and they listened with great interest. Dad said, "I wonder if it was an airplane?" Now, we were 90 minutes away from any major airport, and in fact, commercial air travel was still in its early stages, so a plane flying over our little farm would have been highly unusual. But as a World War 2 veteran, Dad would recognize the sound of a plane, and he had recently heard that some planes were being used to fly mail from one place to another. He wondered if I had heard one of them.
The next day he came in from the field early just to wait with me for the sound from the air, but it did not happen. We finally gave up and went in to eat lunch, and then Dad had some work to do around the house for the rest of the afternoon. I loved when that happened because I got to help him, one of my favorite activities.
We were in the yard working when, about 2:00 PM, there suddenly came that same, "Putt, putt, putt," sound. I was so excited! Dad told me to "Look up. Look into the sky." He helped me locate the plane, and I watched in amazement that this object was flying over our farm. It was flying low enough that we could see the person flying it, whom Dad called the Pilot.
It became part of our day for Dad, Mom, and me to watch for that plane. Dad gave me the job of spotting it and telling everyone else so they could come and watch as well. It became such a regular happening that the pilot began looking for us, and he would wave to us as we enthusiastically waved back. On some days, the pilot would dip a wing, or do a half roll and then fly on the plane's side. We told our farming neighbors about it, and they too began watching for the plane. As a little 5-year old boy, what an adventure that was! I have good memories of sharing that special time with my Mom and Dad (and I am fortunate to have many more such memories!).
As I reflect on that experience, I realize that I also learned some valuable lessons. My Dad taught me to look up because "looking up" was part of his philosophy in life. He encouraged me to not keep my eyes on the ground nor to look down at my feet. "Get your eyes up," he would say when we were playing baseball. He taught me to look someone in the eyes and to not look down on anyone. He also taught me to keep my eyes looking up to find God. Just as I would not have seen the airplane if he had not taught me how to look up, my Dad knew that blessings come from looking up.
Thus, it is with life. This year, 2021, has been a year of great challenge, and we have spent a lot of time, "looking down at our feet." We look at all the negative that is happening, and we've kept our focus on it. We have become content with looking down on people who are different from us, or who think differently than we do. And we have missed out on the peace and joy that is available to us, even during this pandemic and the political strife going on, because we have failed to look up.
In Jeremiah 29:11, God tells us, "For I know the plans I have for you, plans for your welfare and not for your harm, to give you a future with hope." (NRSV) God desires good for us, but our eyes have been focused on looking down a lot over the past couple of years, and we have missed the good that is there, despite the difficulties.
So, let me suggest, just as my Dad did many years ago, that in this new year we look up. Let's listen for all the "Putt, putt, putts," that call us to an adventure. Let's look one another in the eye and reverse what seems to have become the norm in our country of looking down on those who think differently than we do. Let's look for the good that really is happening all around us. And let's allow our God to break into our lives and assist us in getting our eyes up so we can perceive and receive the hope and future God has for us.