Non-Profit Caterpillars and the No. 2 Pencil

With each passing year, my New Year’s Resolutions become less lofty.  When I was six, my goal was to change the world.  Now that I’m forty, I’m happy if I can change the sheets.   

I don’t just toss last year’s calendar into the trash;  I fling it with panache.  With a flick of the wrist, I toss any failures and disappointments of the past year right where they belong – in with the toilet paper rolls.  Then I place a new calendar on the wall and stare at the blinding possibilities of all those blank white squares. 

Each January we all cling to the hope that this year will be different.  We sharpen our No. 2 pencils and smooth out clean sheets of paper.  The intoxicating smell of graphite convinces us that surely this year our resolutions will hold.  With a steady hand, we carefully print out our first goal.


Without warning, Life unequivocally charges into the room like a toddler on Christmas morning.

            –Wanna donut?

            — Sure, thanks.

And just like that, we settle back into our comfortable ways, as effortlessly as slipping into our favorite pair of jeans. 

It’s funny how perspectives change after you live life a little.  The hubris of the young deflates into the practicality of the old.  Our parents, the ones we were embarrassed to have drop us off in a station wagon at the Middle School door, suddenly skyrocket in status once we graduate into the real world.   Sometimes we just need wisdom, even if it does come in the form of someone who eats dinner at 4:00 in the afternoon.

A rich young man seeking wisdom once approached Jesus, fell on his knees, and asked him what he must do to inherit eternal life.  I’m assuming that he fell on his own knees, not Jesus’, because the therapy session would have ended abruptly. I fall on my knees a lot, especially since my kids’ toys come with some sort of special GPS to locate the trajectory of my path.  But when we fall on our knees before Jesus, we demonstrate a meekness and willingness to do whatever it takes to accomplish a goal. 

Jesus saw that this rich young man was earnest in his desire to change.  He also recognized that despite the man’s adherence to the Ten Commandments, he was also missing something.

Mark 10:21

“One thing you lack,” he (Jesus) said.

Knee pads?                

“Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.”

At this the man’s face fell.  He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Of course the man was sad.  Now he had sore knees, a fallen face, and he had to give up his wealth. 

But at least Jesus gave a practical answer, something tangible that the man could do right away, if he so desired.  Notice that Jesus did not whip out a blank sheet of paper and No. 2 pencil and advise the man to write down his goal and hang it on the refrigerator. 


Sometimes kids may have unattainable dreams, such as my son’s desire to become the first astronaut-mailman.  It would be fun to deliver mail from a spaceship, and yes, the Sears Christmas catalog would be much lighter to carry in outer space.  But has he really considered the challenge of factoring gravity in with the cost of postage?  Still, I admire the determination of a child to make dreams come true.

God help the poor donkey who ever challenges my daughter Grace to a Battle of the Wills.  At the age of seven, she announced that she was going to start her own business.  That afternoon.

True to her word, later that day she was down by the road, open for business.  Those fortunate enough to pass by our house were invited to view her twin black and orange caterpillars, Jacob and Esau.  She didn’t make any money, but believed in her heart that she was providing a great service to our community.  When I explained to my little entrepreneur that she was running a non-profit business, she tossed back her golden curls, and yelled to the world:

“Non-profit caterpillars!  Come see my non-profit caterpillars!”

Several hours later, Grace made a difficult but sage decision for the good of her company.

“I think I have to close my business,” she explained.  “Not enough interest.” 

Last week Grace announced that she was going to become an author.  That afternoon.  Her plan was to write her own books and sell them at the bottom of the driveway.  Before I could even respond, she was writing furiously, as though the fate of the world depended on her pencil.  Her No. 2 pencil.

As I stared at the pencil, I realized that Grace was not using it to write down her dreams, but rather to turn her dreams into reality.  And if that didn’t work, she would move to the next plan.  Most likely something down by the side of the road, where her non-profit caterpillars eventually stopped dreaming about being butterflies, and just flew away.


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