Be the One!
James R. Aist
“The King will answer, ‘Truly I say to you, as you have done it for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you have done it for Me.’ (Matthew 25:40)
Recently, I began to reflect on some of the instances when someone took the initiative to step up and be the one who blessed me by filling a need in my life that I couldn’t fill on my own. As a result, I felt a flush of gratitude and appreciation for these thoughtful and generous people and for what they did for me. I am writing this article to encourage you to be on the lookout for opportunities to “be the one” yourself. As you read on, keep in mind that my family had to move every 2-3 years, because Daddy was a Methodist minister. So, hold on, we’re going to move around a bit!
Let me begin by sharing with you three of the blessings that came quickly to my mind that day. The first of these happened when I was about 12 years old, we were living in Evening Shade, Arkansas, and Daddy didn’t have much time to spend with me at that time. Mr. Thomas was the Principal of the local school and a very avid and accomplished fisherman. He was firm with the students, but he also had a sweet, calming spirit about him. We knew that he had our best interests in mind. I greatly admired and respected Mr. Thomas. Well, one Friday afternoon, he approached me at school and asked if I would like to go fishing with him the next day! At first, I was taken aback that he would think of me, a 12 year old boy, as a fishing buddy. But I quickly agreed to go, and we had a great time together. He treated me as if I were his equal, at least for that one afternoon, and I learned some things about fishing from a real master.
The second blessing came to me about three years later. I had just been selected to be on the varsity basketball team at Batesville High School and was about to experience my first away game. I had some warm clothing to help keep me warm on the long, cold school bus rides from away games, but I hadn’t thought much about anything more substantial for the coldest nights. My family couldn’t afford anything warmer for me anyway. Then one day as I was passing by the old General Store in Bethesda on my way home from basketball practice, the store owner, Mr. Porter, caught my attention and asked me to come inside, because he had a surprise for me. So, I went inside, and he handed me a large, flat, cardboard box. When I opened the box, inside was a brand new, hooded, parka, perfect for long, cold bus rides late at night! He said to me, “I didn’t want you to get cold coming back from your away games, so I got you this.” Well, I was quick to thank him for the gift, and I was amazed that he would even think to do that for me, when I hadn’t even given it a thought myself until then.
The third blessing I will share with you came a couple of years later when I had made the basketball team at Springdale High School. We lived 6 miles away, in Elm Springs, I didn’t have a car, and my parents were unable to provide me a ride home after away games. So, it seemed to me that I would have to give up on playing basketball for my last two years of high school, which would be a major letdown, to say the least. So, I told coach Sanders that I couldn’t play after all, and why, but he was not discouraged. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I will give you a ride home after the away games.” “But that’s six miles each way, it will be very late at night, and you have a family to go home to after the games!”, I countered. “That’s OK,” he said, “I want to do it.” Once again, I was amazed that he would make that kind of sacrifice for me. It hadn’t crossed my mind to ask him for a ride, and I wasn’t even his star player.
One more blessing comes easily to mind and must be told. At the time, I was a graduate student, and we were headed to London, Ontario, where I would conduct a research project during the summer that would be helpful to my career development. We decided it would be a great opportunity to camp for a week in the Adirondack Mountains, before moving on to London. Unfortunately, there was a hurricane making its way North that, although considerably weakened by the time it got to New York, still was packing strong winds and lots of cold rain. For some reason, we were not aware that we had camped through a hurricane until after the fact, but we were very much aware that we and our camping gear were damp and wet, and that we were fed up with being confined to our tent for most of a week just trying to be as warm and dry as possible. Now, here comes the good part. An older couple “camping” comfortably next to us in a large camper had befriended us during the week, offering to have us spend some time with them to get warm and dry. But, alas and alack, when it came time for us to pack up and leave, we were neither warm nor dry. They picked up on our suffering, and, having pity on us, made us a most amazing offer. These total strangers would lend us the keys to their house – which was right on our way to London – so that we could spend the night there and get us and our camping gear dry, warm and clean for the final leg of our journey the next day! They even invited us to help ourselves to their strawberry patch, which was in its peak of production at the time. We could hardly believe our ears; who does that? We knew that they could trust us with their stuff, but they didn’t. Such a thing can only come from generous hearts that are extraordinarily trusting and compassionate. They watched us suffer through the wind, rain and cold for a week, and then stepped up and did what they could do to help us out. Of course, we couldn’t refuse their offer and were richly rewarded for their kindness. I still can’t fully wrap my mind around it, though. Sadly, I must confess that I wouldn’t have done that.
As you can see, the common element in all four of these stories is that someone saw a need in my life and just took care of it themselves. That is what “grace” looks like. Grace cannot be either earned or deserved; it can only be offered and received. And so it is with salvation: we are saved, not by works, but by the grace of God through the gift of faith in His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ. So, as we continue our journey through life, let’s extend grace to those around us as the opportunities arise and as we are able. Let’s us “Be the One!” In doing so, we will not only be helping someone in need (that’s a good thing), but we will also be glorifying God by modeling His grace to others.
(To read more of my articles with biblical themes, click HERE)