Ol' Elmer at Give Kids the World Village

Hello, Elmer!

Part of the fun of going places that you have never been before is that you never know what you might find when you go. Sometimes, you might see an interesting building or a cool pond. And then other times  you might walk around a corner and see a giant, sleeping tree.

Ol’ Elmer at Give Kids the World Village

I came across just such a giant, sleeping tree at Give Kids the World Village in Florida when we visited there during Jaylin’s band trip in April. There he was, just sleeping away. And yes, you can even hear him sawing logs. Oh wait, a tree might not want to be described as sawing logs. That would be like taking the San Diego Chicken to KFC for lunch or something. Not the best way to make new friends, I guess.

Yes, this tree was snoring. Loudly. Some people say I snore sometimes. But I never believe them, because I can’t hear it. Of course, I am asleep, which probably explains why I wouldn’t be able to hear it. But anyway, this tree does indeed snore.

And yes, this tree has a name, which is Ol’ Elmer, if you have not figured that out from the title of this post. I’m not really sure how he got that name. I didn’t want to wake him up to ask him, so I decided to just let it go. I would like to imagine that he would wake up happy instead of grumpy. But you never know with strangers. So I decided to let sleeping trees lie. Or stand, in the case of Elmer.

Serious Joy

We have a Bible class at our church right now that is studying the Secret of Joy from the letter that Paul wrote to the Philippians. That main secret (yes, I am giving it to you free of charge, because everyone needs more joy) is found in Philippians 3:13-14: “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Paul says that if you forget about the bad things of the past and focus on the good things that are ahead, you can have that joy that we all want.

While we were getting a tour of Give Kids the World Village, our guide said that while the kids who visit there have had some pretty bad things happen to them - you know, like cancer and other serious illnesses - Give Kids the World is a place of joy. It is a place where everyone can put those bad things behind them and just have a good time. I thought that was great. And everything there contributed to that joy, from the architecture to the friendliness of the staff and volunteers. And even things such as a giant tree.

Why can’t we do that in our lives? Why can’t we forget about the past and just focus on the good things that are ahead? I know we are human. I know our human nature tells us to hold on to the bad things and to try to get justice, which is often just a code word for revenge. We want everything to be right, whatever right is. And that causes us to focus on ourselves. Which isn’t always a good thing.

Instead, if we forget about those bad things, we start to look around for something to fill the time that we used to spend thinking about ourselves and getting things as we want them. So then we can use that time to think about others and what we can do for them. We can think about good things that are ahead. And we can be joyful.

Joy is not always the same as happiness, of course. Sometimes you have to choose to be joyful despite the circumstances. Sometimes that involves forgetting about the present as well as forgetting about the past. It isn’t always easy, but it can be done. And when you are joyful despite the circumstances, that is when your real joy will shine through to others. That will cause them to want to know how we can be joyful, and then we can share that secret with them as well.

You can be seriously joyful. Give it a try sometime. You just might like it.

See more from Give Kids the World Village and the rest of that trip in the 2018 Band Trip to Universal Orlando archive.

Bible Verse

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. - James 1:2-3

About the Photo

This photo involved a little bit of processing work thanks to the late afternoon Florida sun and the shadows it created. Not that I ever complain about Florida sun. But it does cause a little work in photos sometimes.

I worked in Photoshop to smooth out the differences between the highlights and shadows as much as I could. I ended up blending in a separate exposure of Ol’ Elmer’s face from the original Raw file, to help lighten it up just a bit. Then I created a color burn layer to darken up the highlights some more. That yellow color on the building behind Elmer was almost overwhelmingly bright before I toned it down slightly. 

Elmer didn’t seem to mind the sun any, and I didn’t either, knowing that while we were there it was cold and wintry back home. So working just a bit to control the sunlight in the photo was no trouble at all.

Photo: A single Raw exposure, processed in Photoshop. Read more about photography tips, photo software, camera gear, and more at Steve’s Photography Tips.
Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M10
Lens: Rokinon 7.5mm f/3.5 Fisheye Lens
Date: April 5, 2018
Location: Give Kids the World Village, Kissimmee, Florida


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Burnsland is Steve Burns, with generous help from his lovely wife Laura. Steve is a husband, father, photographer, webmaster, writer, podcaster, artist, Christian. Steve enjoys sharing his photography, art, and stories through Burnsland.com, from the Burnsland World Headquarters in Tennessee.