A few months before I was born, my dad met a stranger who
was new to our small Tennessee town. From the beginning,
Dad was fascinated with this enchanting newcomer, and soon
invited him to live with our family. The stranger was
quickly accepted and was around to welcome me into the world
a few months later.
As I grew up I never questioned his place in our family. In
my young mind, each member had a special niche. My brother,
Bill, five years my senior, was my example. Fran, my
younger sister, gave me an opportunity to play ‘big brother’
and develop the art of teasing. My parents were
complementary instructors– Mom taught me to love the word
of God, and Dad taught me to obey it.
But the stranger was our storyteller. He could weave the
most fascinating tales. Adventures, mysteries and comedies
were daily conversations. He could hold our whole family
spell-bound for hours each evening. If I wanted to know
about politics, history, or science, he knew it all. He
knew about the past, understood the present, and seemingly
could predict the future. The pictures he could draw were
so life like that I would often laugh or cry as I watched.
He was like a friend to the whole family. The stranger was
He took Dad, Bill and me to our first major league baseball
game. He was always encouraging us to see the movies and he
even made arrangements to introduce us to several movie
stars. My brother and I were deeply impressed by John Wayne
The stranger was an incessant talker. Dad didn’t seem to
mind – but sometimes Mom would quietly get up — while the
rest of us were enthralled with one of his stories of
faraway places — go to her room, read her Bible and pray. I
wonder now if she ever prayed that the stranger would leave.
You see, my dad ruled our household with certain moral
convictions. But this stranger never felt obligation to
honor them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our
house– not from us, from our friends, or adults. Our
longtime visitor, however, used occasional four letter words
that burned my ears and made Dad squirm. To my knowledge
the stranger was never confronted.
My dad was a teetotaler who didn’t permit alcohol in his
home – not even for cooking. But the stranger felt like we
needed exposure and enlightened us to other ways of life. He
offered us beer and other alcoholic beverages often. He
made cigarettes look tasty, cigars manly, and pipes
He talked freely (probably too much & too freely) about
sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes
suggestive, and generally embarrassing. I know now that my
early concepts of the man-woman relationship were influenced
by the stranger. As I look back, I believe it was the grace
of God that the stranger did not influence us more. Time
after time he opposed the values of my parents. Yet he was
seldom rebuked and never asked to leave.
More than thirty years have passed since the stranger moved
in with the young family on Morningside Drive. He is not
nearly so intriguing to my Dad as he was in those early
years.But if I were to walk into my parents’ den today, you
would still see him sitting over in a corner, waiting for
someone to listen to him talk and watch him draw his
His name? We always just called him T.V.
I discovered the ‘poem’ above over 20 years ago, and it changed my life. We have a tendency to walk through our life unaware of our mindset, our worldview. And yet this is the filter through which we measure everything. That filter is not random. It is created by the things that influence us each day, and repetition builds the power it exerts on us.
The very first step to actually changing yourself lies in the realization that you are being programmed by the things having repeated access to your subconscious mind. Begin your journey toward being the best “you” by consciously choosing your programming. In the US the average person watches more than 4 hours of daily TV and it is turned on over 6 hours every day. Nearly 70% of all US households have 3 or more TV sets.
Now that you know the numbers, go back and reread “The Stranger.” And really think about what you are doing before you give yourself over to that influence next time.
“Your life is yours alone. Rise up and live it.” – Terry Goodkind