There’s nothing really wrong with being a short boy. Nothing that couldn’t be fixed if you were to suddenly find a way to grow eight or ten inches taller.
Since I have always lacked those influential inches, my father taught me to stand tall and to walk tall. This is a great psychological cover-up until you find that no matter how hard you stretch, you still can’t see at parades unless you sit on the curb, and then some tall friend is likely to put you down endearingly by saying, “Don’t sit on the curb, Paul; your feet will dangle”
Since, over the years, I have stretched all the way up to just slightly shorter than average, I’ve asked some of the shorter young people I see in church and on the campus where I teach if there are any advantages to being short. From them and from some personal experiences I have gleaned a few.
For one thing, I could always fit nicely into some of the best hiding places when we used to play kick the can. I immediately lost this advantage when it came time for me to race “home” against my longer-legged friends.
My short friends and I found even more trauma when we enrolled in high school gym classes. I submit that it’s impossible for anyone to excel athletically when his physical education T-shirt hits him at the ankles in all the entrapping glory of a maxiskirt.
Dating is another area where we short boys get in over our heads.
In high school I was enthusiastic but far from being a good dancer. I always believed that if the Lord had meant for short fellows to dance, he’d have equipped them with periscopes. Where most of the boys my age found dancing effortless and fun, we shorty-dancers deserved combat pay. Those elbows from other dancers that caught taller participants in the ribs poked us right in the eye!
I once took a pretty girl I’d known most of my life to a dance. Since grade school, she and I had had a thing going about spelling. Though I could outspell her anytime, she could now outstretch me. I took her to the dance because she was a natural athlete and I needed all the help I could get on the dance floor. But that date was a mistake. It was fine for her to be up there in the clear air, but no one gives any thought to a short escort who can seldom see over or around to avoid the advancing troops.
Despite all these difficulties, things went along all right until, under the spell of the moonlit night, I turned and whispered sweet nothings, softly and romantically, right into her shoulder.
Since then, I’ve fared better at research than romance. My ongoing interviews have uncovered the following rationalizations commonly used to ease the struggles against shortness:
“You don’t have so far to bend when you say your prayers” Don’t you believe it! The real distance in praying is the length of the line between your heart and God’s—no matter how tall you are.
“Short people run faster.” What that really means is that short people run harder than anyone else. In one stride, Wilt Chamberlain can effortlessly cover twice the ground I can.
The best solution to shortness: Don’t fret about being short. I quit worrying about my lack of height before I was ever graduated from high school. In my Latin class, three of the four boys registered were named Paul. One was so tall he had a perpetual cloud at his hairline, one was just a shade shorter than that, and then there was me. One day our wise old teacher sized us up as we left the room after class.
“When I see two of you three Pauls, it’s hard to believe,” she said, “that paulus means ‘little’ in Latin.” Then she dropped one of those little bombs that made her a memorable teacher. “As a matter of fact,” she went on, “a name doesn’t mean much in any language until or unless you make something of it.” She looked right at me as she spoke, and for a few minutes I thought I might bump my head on the ceiling.
Speaking of cloud-reachers, want to know what happened to that girl I took to the dance? One of my best friends married her. We still see a lot of each other socially. She’s still pretty, and she’s the best volleyball player in our crowd. She can do anything with a volleyball. Well, almost anything. She spells it v-a-w-l-e-e-b-o-l.