Rev. Doug Johnson, Senior Pastor, Bethel Temple Assembly of God in Huntington, WV
When I was a young boy, I would often get bored during summer vacation from school. My grandmother would tell me, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” I never really understood that phrase. I think she was telling me to find something constructive to do before I got into mischief!
I recently heard a true story by Ray Johnston about a 33-year-old truck driver named Larry Walters who made national news. Larry had a habit of spending his weekends in his Los Angeles backyard, just south of L.A. International Airport, drinking Pepsi and eating peanut butter sandwiches. He would sit in his favorite lawn chair staring at the houses around him in the subdivision where he lived. Not a real exciting life.
One day, boredom prompted Larry Walters to buy some balloons and a tank of helium. He figured on tying the balloons to his lawn chair, filling them with helium, and floating up for an aerial view of the neighborhood. He judged he’d get no higher than 100 feet, but just in case, he got out his BB gun and loaded it. He planned to regulate his altitude by shooting out a couple of balloons. I’m not sure how many six-packs of Pepsi he had consumed when he came to that idea, but he decided it was worth a try.
So Larry Walters of Los Angeles went out and bought 45 big weather balloons, a huge tank of helium, and some rope. First he secured his lawn chair to the ground, then he filled the balloons with helium. One by one he tied them to his lawn chair. Before liftoff he went in the house and got another six-pack of Pepsi, a couple of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and his BB gun. Then he went out and sat in his lawn chair. He had instructed his neighbors to cut the ropes securing the chair when he was ready. “Let’s go!” he yelled, and the ropes were cut.
But he didn’t go 100 feet. He went up 11,000 feet! Shot straight up in the air! And the BB gun? It was useless since he was using both hands to hang on to the chair for dear life.
He zoomed straight up into the landing pattern at L.A. Airport. The pilot of an approaching Continental DC 10 reported that he had just passed a man in a lawn chair, and the control tower told him to report in immediately upon landing. They thought the pilot may have been drinking a little too much…Pepsi. Can you imagine being a passenger in that plane? “Look, mom, out the window! There’s a man in a lawn chair!”
Eventually they sent up helicopters to rescue Larry Walters. They closed the airport and diverted all landings and takeoffs at LAX while they played tag with this fellow in his lawn chair at 11,000 feet. When they finally got him down, he was surrounded by TV crews, the police, fire and rescue squads, and plenty of curious people. It was a major event.
“Were you scared?” asked one of the TV reporters, thrusting a microphone in his face.
“No, not really,” said Larry.
“Are you going to do it again?” asked another reporter.
“No,” said Larry.
“What in the world made you do it the first time?”
Larry Walters thought about it for a moment and said, “Well, I couldn’t just sit there.”
You see, boredom can lead to mischief if not handled correctly. I believe that’s what my grandmother was trying to teach me years ago. The Bible instructs us not to “eat the bread of idleness.” (Proverbs 31:27) So the next time you get bored–read the Bible, help your neighbor, visit someone in the hospital…find something constructive to do before mischief finds you.