The following story is copied from an anonymous author.
A farmer had some puppies he needed to sell. He painted a sign advertising the 4 pups and set about nailing it to a post on the edge of his property. As he was driving the last nail into the post, he felt a tug on his overalls. He looked down into the eyes of a little boy.
"Mister", he said, "I want to buy one of your puppies."
"Well", said the farmer, as he rubbed the sweat off the back of his neck, "These puppies come from fine parents and cost a good deal of money."
The boy dropped his head for a moment. Then reaching deep into his pocket, he pulled out a handful of change and held it up to the farmer.
"I've got thirty-nine cents. Is that enough to take a look?" "Sure" said the farmer. And with that he let out a whistle. "Here Dolly!" he called.
Out from the doghouse and down the ramp ran Dolly followed by four little balls of fur. The little boy pressed his face against the chain link fence. His eyes danced with delight. As the dogs made their way to the fence, the little boy noticed something else stirring inside the doghouse. Slowly another little ball appeared, this one noticeably smaller. Down the ramp it slid. Then in a somewhat awkward manner, the little pup began hobbling toward the others, doing its best to catch up.
"I want that one", the little boy said, pointing to the runt. The farmer knelt down at the boy's side and said, "Son, you don't want that puppy. He will never be able to run and play with you like these other dogs would."
With that the little boy stepped back from the fence, reached down and began rolling up one leg of his trousers. In doing so, he revealed a steel brace running down both sides of his leg attaching itself to a s specially made shoe. Looking back up at the farmer, he said, "You see sir, I don't run too well myself, and he will need someone who understands."
With tears in his eyes, the farmer reached down and picked up the little pup.
I cannot help but think how many times I make the same assumption as the farmer when it comes to my own children. I think I know what they need and will try to steer them to make, what believe is the best decision, rather than trust the Lord and them to make the decision that is best for them and their circumstances. It is amazing to see the wisdom of children in action, just as it is amazing to see the wisdom of our Lord and Savior in action in our lives each and every day. Sometimes we feel like the farmer, like we have the whole thing figured out and we know what is best. But what is amazing is when we realize that we are need to be more like the little boy, with his frailties, compassion, empathy and wisdom, And most importantly, trust that the Lord will give exactly what we need, exactly when we need it.
I have had a lot of occasion to think about community over the past couple of weeks. I grew up in West Deptford and have lived here for almost my entire life. When I was a kid, WD was the quintessential "small town". Our mail man used to deliver mail in his own car, the milkman left the milk on our front porch in an insulated grey box that I thought was there specifically to hold my collection of stones. My Uncle Bob and his long time friend and business partner Charlie Bowers, owned a small garage where they fixed cars. At 10:00am every weekday, that little garage would fill up with people from town for coffee. Guys who worked for the township, guys from the fire companies, police officers, farmers, delivery men, you name it, they were there; drinking coffee, talking, joking and having a good time.
Each December, everyone from the garage would head into the woods for a week of deer hunting and every summer they would fish together. They always looked out for each other and took care of each other. When my uncle got married, he and his wife bought land to build their house. The house was built by guys from town. Anyone who had time after work or on the weekend would show up and lend a hand, and that house is still standing today. Everybody pitched in to help each other no matter what the situation; physical, financial, emotional, there was always someone there to help. That is the West Deptford I know and will always remember.
When my eldest daughter was in eight grade she would tell me that a lot of kids in her grade did not like the town. If that's true, I can't help but think part of it may be that they have not experienced the "community" versus the town. When I was little, the neighbors around our house were all older couples with both the husband and wife retired. I used to spend hours with those old folks; in their homes, in their yards and on their front porches, talking with them. They shared stories, let me help them with projects and let me earn a little money cutting their grass. My one neighbor, Mrs. Leonard, gave me ten Indianhead pennies that I still have. I know most kids today will never have an opportunity to experience that kind of interaction. Not that I am anti-technology, but the childhood I got to have cannot be duplicated by a little glass box no matter how many "friends" or "likes" you have.
And that is what a church is as well, a community of followers of Jesus, who care for one another, are there for one another to help, encourage, lift up and bear one another along. Be bold and dare to be apart of the community.
Boys and girls...tell your parents and grab your lists! Santa will be coming to First Baptist Church of Mantua on Saturday, December 8th from 12 - 2pm. He will have a special treat for every little girl and boy and the church will provide light refreshments. Don't forget to bring your cameras to capture the moment. Come on out and tell Santa what you want for Christmas this year!
Some years ago I learned about what some call the "greatest transfer of knowledge in human history". This transfer of knowledge started with the Greek philosopher Socrates and include four people you may have heard of; Socrates taught Plato, Plato taught Aristotle and Aristotle taught Alexander the Great. Although I first heard of this relationship many years ago, I often return to these four men to think of the enormity of their connection. Although each of these men were giants in their fields, and were a succession of both student and teacher, they were not carbon copies of each other. They learned from their teacher, but did not feel they had to be just like him. They learned, developed their own ideas and progressed thought further forward.
As far as history knows, Socrates did not write anything down. What is know about him comes from the writings of his star pupil Plato who uses Socrates as the main character and teacher in many of his Dialogues. Despite all of the good that Socrates did for mankind, he was not exactly appreciated by the ancient Greeks. He was charged with the moral corruption of the youth of Athens and impiety. According to Plato, Socrates stood trial, was found guilty and was sentenced to death. His followers encouraged Socrates to flee Athens and many in the city expected him to do just that. However, Socrates refused to make a mockery of the trial. Rather than fleeing his beloved Athens, he drank hemlock, as he was ordered at his sentencing. Socrates remained true to his beliefs in the face of death. Rather than taking the easy way out, he chose to stand on his ideals. The loss to himself did not matter. What mattered was that his students, and all of the people of Athens, saw a man who did what was right no matter how many people said it was wrong.
After Socrates death, Plato opened his school of philosophy, The Academy, It was there that he further developed his own ideas and taught them to others. Aristotle was one of those students who studied with Plato for twenty years before opening his own school, The Lyceum. Alexander the Great was tutored by Aristotle until the age of 16. He became King of Macedon at age 20 and as a result of an incredibly successful military campaign ( in which he was never defeated) created one of the largest empires of the ancient world.
Each man impacted the world in his own way. Each was a student of the one before, learned from them, yet did not feel they had to be a carbon copy of them. So what is my point in all of this? At any given point in your life, you are a link in a transfer of knowledge. At times you are a teacher and at other times a student and quite often, you are both at the same time, learning from those wiser than you and teacher those less experienced than you.
Each of us is gifted in different ways and that gift is just what is needed by someone each and everyday. Perhaps you don't have a gift to be a teacher, no problem. You may have a gift of compassion, patience, humor, empathy, writing, it does not make a difference where your gift lies, by using that gift everyday, you will be transferring what you have to someone else, and that is teaching in its purest form baby.