My daughter enjoys puzzles. The more pieces, the better. I, on the other hand, can’t stand them. So. Many. Pieces. She has a method to her madness though, as does anyone who enjoys putting puzzles together. Step 1, find the frame pieces and put the frame together. Step 2, separate the pieces by color and place them in piles. Step 3, spend the next few maddening days twisting and turning the pieces in just the right way as to slowly, yet surely, put the puzzle together. And when it’s complete, admire your work. And move on to the next one.
Puzzles. Things that need solved. My wife and I recently got out of the winter doldrums of Northwest Ohio and spent a few days in Arizona. It’s a desert. The #1 necessity of life: water. Only 0.3% of the ground surface of Arizona is water. Yet large communities thrive in various valleys throughout the state. So how do you get water to a dry and thirsty land? How is there golf courses and restaurants and resorts and people enjoying their time on vacation without giving a second thought that each time a facet is turned on, water flows? Answer: it was a puzzle. And a group of highly trained engineers a century ago set about to solve the puzzle. And basically, nested in the hills of many of Arizona’s mountains…large water tanks. These tanks are painted in such a way as to blend in, so if you weren’t looking, you wouldn’t see them. But on many hikes Keri and I went on, these tanks were present.
How do those tanks get full of water? Another puzzle. But once again, a group of highly trained engineers set out to solve the problem. Sourced from the Colorado River and other deep wells, pipes and tiles and modern day aqueducts were created. Hence, the tanks never run out. Hence, our vacation was great. We didn’t go thirsty, nor did we go showerless. Water was ever-present, yet without our even recognizing it, it was delivered by an intricate and well-thought-out plan of blueprints, infrastructure, and ingenuity.
We take so many solved puzzles for granted, don’t we? I grew up on a farm who’s harvest helped pay the bills and put food in my mouth and clothes on my back. However, our farm is located in Northwest Ohio in part of what they called the Black Swamp. And generations before me, John Hixon cleared the land and set drainage ditches and eventually tile throughout the 160 acre farm. This allowed fertile soil to be planted in and yield its magical grain seed that can be sold to the market each and every harvest season. I didn’t drain anything, nor did my dad, nor did my grandpa. Generations of Hixon’s before us solved the puzzle and paved the way.
Have you retrieved anything from your refrigerator today? A generation ago, food had to be consumed quicker for risk of it spoiling. Salt was used to extend the life of some food items, but in general, without refrigeration, most things spoiled quicker. So, as meaningless as a refrigerator is, it’s actually one of the most under-appreciated appliances in your home. You now only have to shop once per week, and the fridge will keep your food from spoiling.
Ever thought about indoor plumbing? Your car? Your iPhone? GPS? Did I mention a book? Do you grasp how influential the mass production of the written word on pages in book form has impacted our lives? The printing press opened up literacy and learning that we fail to appreciate each time we open a book or a menu or a map or a brochure.
Puzzles. So many have been solved, yet there’s so many left to go. Cancer. Wars. Racism. Environment. Health. Longevity. Non-renewable resources. Yet, I believe the only thing better than today…is tomorrow. God created you on purpose for a purpose. What puzzle will you solve? What crisis will you help divert? What common appliance will you invent that will soon be so common as to be overlooked just like the refrigerator?
As with any puzzle, start by sorting it out. Group the edge pieces. Build the frame. Find the common hues. Paint the mosaic. Start the puzzle. Twist and turn each piece to fit. Get the right education. Hire the right people. Raise the right capital. Find the right location.
Then, step back. And admire your work.
With you, humanity survives…even thrives. Without you, a piece of the puzzle is missing.
Live on purpose today.