All of these little model engines work together on the Island of Sodor under the direction of their railway controller Sir Topham Hatt. (They're British.) Over and over in these little train escapades you come to understand the greatest crime an engine can commit is causing "confusion and delay," and the compliment that they wish the most to hear from Sir Topham Hatt is to be called a "really useful engine."
It seemed a bit silly after a while. What is "confusion and delay" after all, and the praise of being "really useful" seems hardly anything to brag to your mum about. That is--until I started to consider those two phrases in my own life.
My little boys can be quite a handful, they are energetic and rambunctious, but the times when I get the most frustrated with them is when they are doing what can --seriously-- be best described as "causing confusion and delay." Things that aren't inherently bad, but it's just the wrong time for them to be doing it, or it is just exactly the opposite of what would help us get out the door, or get dinner on the table, or whatever it is I'm trying to do at the moment. It's a great phrase because Sir Topham Hatt simply states with clearness the offense, without exaggerating any false gravity about it all, just "You have caused confusion and delay." And yes, occasionally I will say that to my boys.
I've also found it interesting to ponder over the fact that the original books were written by an English Clergyman the Reverend W. Awdry, and wondering in what ways Christian morals may have made their way in--since they were originally written for his own son. For a long time I felt like there wasn't much to offer by way of real character training other than weird things like: don't switch jobs with your friend unless you ask permission from the controller first.
Today though, I had a quick thought, to call a friend and offer a specific service. Nothing big and, quite very possibly, not even necessary. A bit later, that friend called back, responding to my message with, "That would be a lifesaver!"
And so tonight I've been riding that wave. That feeling above all feelings--that I was "a really useful engine" to someone with a small need. I hope I will always remember to not try and seek glory for myself. To remember that the most important thing is not to become famous or acclaimed, but to serve my Father in Heaven by serving those around me.
"I know that which the Lord hath commanded me, and I glory in it. I do not glory of myself, but I glory in that which the Lord hath commanded me; yea, and this is my glory, that perhaps I may be an instrument in the hands of God. . ." [Alma 29:9]
And when my time on earth is completed I hope God will look over my life and with a nod of approval, tell me simply, and without extra fuss, that I was "really useful".