FIRST-PERSON: A 7-year-old's passion

BRISTOL, Tenn. (BP) -- It had been two or three months since James David, one of our grandsons, had crawled under the bed in our guest room and discovered a plastic box with an old model train set.

On a short visit to Nahnee and Papa's recently, 7-year-old James David ventured upstairs and again retrieved the storage container from under the bed.

Most of the grandchildren were watching cartoons, playing with toys in the den or outside with the pets. When I noticed that James David was neither present nor accounted for, I went looking. That's when I found that he had, again, discovered the train set.

This time, not only had he located and rummaged through the HO gauge tracks, engines and cars, he had assembled some track and placed engine and cars thereon.

Due to the small scale of the tracks, it takes a bit of skill and determination to join the pieces together, but James David had gone beyond the basic task of setting up track in a circle and placing cars on the track. Not only had he laid it out, he had also located the controls, cords and switches that powered the small railroad. The train was actually running on the track with the young engineer as its operator.

I was thoroughly impressed at his ingenuity. Given the short amount of time he had been working on his little project, I probably could not have accomplished what he had done. In fact, I probably would have had to resort to reading the directions. He had obviously studied the components and just figured it out.

How in the world was he able to stay focused enough to put it all together, with no past experience and without help from an adult or older sibling?

The simple answer is that he is passionate about trains. His interest in railroads is prodigious, so his determination to set up the HO gauge model was huge. His purpose became consuming. He was resolute regarding the completion of the task he had gladly assumed.

Perhaps you have heard the old saying: "Whatever floats your boat …" Well, trains are the "whatever" that floats James David's boat. He is mesmerized by freight trains, coal trains and passenger trains.

Wouldn't it be amazing if, as adults, we could become as passionate about things that really matter as that precious 7-year-old is about trains? We should be as focused on displaying our love for God and our love for others as he is about his love of trains, don't you think?

If we did, we would love the Lord with all our heart, soul and mind, and our neighbor as ourselves.

Here is a simple challenge: Let's attempt to spend every waking moment demonstrating our commitment to God with the fervor and focus James David showed in a few minutes of getting things together to make a model train go around in circles.

Steve Playl, a retired Baptist pastor, is a chaplain at a Bristol, Tenn., hospital, a newspaper columnist and college instructor.
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