Walt was born a healthy 8 pound boy. His parents loved him dearly and nurtured him so he grew with out a worry in the world.
When Walt entered school he was a typical student. His teacher was compassionate and very good at bringing out the best in her students. Walt quickly learned his alphabet and numbers and even more importantly, learned to play well with others. His favorite part of school was the many opportunities to learn by playing in small groups. Walt simply loved his teacher and his many friends.
Even though the work became more challenging as Walt progressed through elementary school, he was able to understand the lessons and still did well. He had been taught well and was able to build onto what he had already mastered. It might be said that he had a strong foundation and there was plenty of space available for him to build. (A construction analogy, I hope it fits).
Walt started to play little league and he enjoyed swinging the bat, though he did not always hit his mark. Yes, there were times he struck out, but that was all part of the game. Walt was very good at shaking it off and holding his bat high the next time he stood in front of the catcher. He was a good sport and would cheer on his teammates who managed to run to first, and he consoled his friends who also struck out.
One day a very strange thing happened. It was a Tuesday just after spring break. Walt was excited and was eagerly telling his friends that the night before his mother had gotten a call. He had been chosen for the Bluebirds, a team in a higher division than his classmates. They had moved him up because that team needed more players and they thought Walt was a strong enough player to be able to handle it. Walt’s mother had told him it was a honor, he should be proud and he should do his best.
Most of Walt’s friends were just as excited for Walt even though they were a little envious.
Then Tom asked, “Aren’t you worried you’ll strike out every time with the better pitchers?”
Walt’s best friend, Jimmy, laughed, “No way, Walt can handle it. They wouldn’t put him up if he couldn’t.”
Walt was glad Jimmy had confidence in him, but something about what Tom said made him think. As he sat at his desk and started his morning work, he wondered how fast the older boys would throw. Would they throw curve balls that he wouldn’t be able to judge? Walt shook off his concern and finished his morning work easily. He was the first to finish and had all the correct answers.
When the teacher asked for the homework from the night before, Walt opened his folder and quickly located the paper. That was when he had the first shock of his life. The paper was exactly as it was when the teacher had given it to him. In his excitement he had forgotten to do his homework!
Walt’s large eyes started to fill with tears, but he blinked them away. He held the paper in a shaky hand and looked down at his desk as the teacher checked the homework. She hadn’t been unkind, she simply told him he would have to do his homework during recess. She was not angry at him, “Everyone forgets sometimes, it is nothing to worry about.”
That was when Walt noticed something on his hand. He had never seen it before and he wondered what it was. It was just a small brown spot. ‘Must be a freckle,’ he thought, ‘I never had freckles before.’
When recess started, Walt stayed inside to finish his homework. He started thinking about his friends outside and how he was missing out on the kickball game. ‘I really need the running practice, oh, why did I forget my homework?’ he admonished himself. Because he spent so much time thinking about what he was missing, he took much longer than usual to do his homework, and missed the entire recess.
Walt looked down at his hand. Was the freckle darker than it had been before? He thought it was, but then he hadn’t really looked at it. He studied it for a moment, then turned his attention to his teacher who was going over the homework with the class. Walt missed four out of the ten problems. He had been distracted and had not paid close enough attention to the work. He had made careless mistakes. ‘At least it isn’t graded,’ he told himself.
Spring flowers started blooming in all their glory as Opening Day approached. The coach was patient and knowledgeable and the team was working well on the drills. They were all eager to play their first game and were developing a oneness that is necessary for success.
On Opening Day, as Walt was washing his hands, he felt something unusual. The spot he had noticed a month ago was now not just a discoloration. It was a bump. Walt couldn’t remember having been bit by anything. He shrugged it off, nothing to worry about on Opening Day.
Walt was proud as he paraded through town with his team. He was on a great team, he loved his coach and he was eagerly anticipating a big win.
The first player struck out. The second player had a tremendous hit all the way out to the fence, only to be caught by the fielder. Walt looked at the coach as he got into his batting stance. The coach’s sign was for him to just let the first pitch go, not to swing. That way Walt would know where the Ump was calling strikes.
The second pitch, was called a ball. Walt felt confident he knew where the strike zone was and he swung. The ball flew over the fence, towards the fans; it was foul.
Walt’s hand itched. He scratched it. Was the bump getting bigger?
Distracted, Walt struck out.
When he stood in his position in left field, he tried to pay attention to the game, but he was distracted. His hand was really bothering him. The bump seemed to get larger. In the final inning he missed an important catch. In the time it took him to get the ball and throw it to the baseman, the batter had made it to home plate. It was a grand slam! Walt’s team had lost the game.
There were several days before the next game. During that time, Walt was still doing all his school work, but he was making more and more careless mistakes. His friends had started to tease him that he was not so much better than they were anymore. Walt was really beginning to worry.
One morning his mother watched him eat his cereal. She asked him to show her his hand. The small bump was now much larger, very dark, and oddly shaped.
“How long has this been here?” She asked. She seemed very concerned when he told her about how it had changed over the last month and was upset she hadn’t noticed it before.
Rather than go to school that day, Walt was taken to see a specialist. The specialist said it was a Worry Wart. Neither Walt, nor his mother had ever heard of a Worry Wart. They both thought the specialist was playing a joke on them.
“Well, Walt what do you worry about?” the specialist asked.
Walt just shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. He didn’t know he ever worried. He wasn’t really sure what it meant to worry.
The specialist nodded with a slight grin and winked at Walt’s mother. “Well, Walt I think it is really sad that you don’t know what you’re worried about. Maybe you should think about it a little more.”
Walt stared at the specialist. He didn’t really understand what the specialist wanted. Was he supposed to know why he was worried? Why was he worried, he wondered. Walt became very nervous, he started to worry because he did not know why he was worried. As he sat on the examining table, his hand started to throb. His wart was getting larger even as he looked at it. It was getting so large that it was hard to miss the fact that it was getting larger.
Walt’s mother gasped and jumped out of her chair to hug her son. “What is happening?”
The specialist laughed, “Nothing to worry about. You see, it is a Worry Wart. It will get larger every time he worries. Usually you wouldn’t notice the changes because Walt does not worry much.
“But, you see, when I told Walt to think about why he was worried, Walt worried even more. He worried about being worried. That is the most fruitless worrying possible. It does not do any good to worry.”
Walt sat crying silently.
“Can we have it removed?” his mother asked.
“No need,” the specialist responded. For a few minutes the specialist asked Walt all kinds of questions about what made him happy and what he felt he could do well. They talked about professional baseball teams, swimming and fishing and all kinds of things. As they talked the wart began to shrink.
“Now, I want you to just breathe in deeply and let it out in slow breaths as we continue to talk.” The specialist held Walt’s hand gently as Walt breathed. Before long the wart was completely gone.
“You see, Walt, you are one of the few people who get Worry Warts. It isn’t really a bad thing. Now you will always know when you are worrying and you will be able to stop yourself with your breathing and by focusing on something else. You don’t have to worry about the wart. As long as you keep calm, you will never have another occurrence again.”
Wouldn’t it be horrible to have a Worry Wart? Worrying never improves anything.
Here are some tips to help prevent worrying.
1. Have a shopping list and to do list at all times. That way when you think of something you don’t want to forget you write it down and don’t have to worry.
2. Live in the moment. No matter where you are or what you are doing, remember you are where you are supposed to be and enjoy the moment. If you remember something you have to do, write it on your list, but keep doing what you are doing because there is no reason to worry.
3. Check your list, make sure to mark your priorities. If you have a cell phone that has reminders for your calendar, be sure to use it. That way you don’t have to worry you forgot to pick up a child from school, or go to an important meeting.
4. If paying bills is a difficult endeavor, set up a time each week, or bi-weekly when you are going to pay the bills. When you get bills, put them in a safe place to be handled during your scheduled bill paying time. Whenever you start to worry about the bills, tell yourself this is not the time. Of course it won’t make it easier to pay the bills, but neither is worrying. Worrying will only make it more likely that you will have added medical bills, or need to buy antacids.
5. Breathe deeply and slowly. Think about other things.
If you have any other tips to help people who worry, please share. Worrying does not promote peace.
Today’s Challenge: Do not worry.