Tomorrow is our dear daughter Angie’s birthday. Next Tuesday is my dear wife Terry’s birthday. That very same date (but not the same year) is my dear Mother Elda’s 102nd birthday. Happy Birthday, sweet ladies! I dearly love each of you! I wonder how many men are blessed to observe within a few calendar days each year the birthdays of their mother, wife, and daughter!
Now to today’s topic. Recently a number of my friends have been called home to heaven. Each time a friend or loved one passes I reflect on that person’s life, recalling what I know about his or her joys and sorrows, blessings and difficulties. And I ponder for what he or she might be remembered.
Each person is uniquely blessed and leaves a mark, for better or for worse, on the people in his or her world. Here’s a story, author unknown, told by an observer of one whose life made a difference for the good of those he knew.
I was at the corner grocery store, buying some early potatoes. I noticed a small boy, delicate of bone and feature, ragged but clean, hungrily appraising a basket of freshly-picked green peas. I paid for my potatoes, but was also drawn to the display of fresh green peas.
Pondering the peas, I couldn’t help overhearing the conversation between Mr. Miller (the store owner) and the ragged boy next to me.
“Hello, Barry, how are you today?”
“H’lo, Mr. Miller. Fine, thank ya. Jus’ admirin’ them peas. They sure look good!”
“They are good, Barry. How’s your ma?”
“Fine. Gittin’ stronger alla’ time.”
“Good. Anything I can help you with?”
“No, Sir. Jus’ admirin’ them peas.”
“Would you like to take some home?” asked Mr. Miller.
“No, Sir. Got nuthin’ to pay for ‘em with.”
“Well, what do you have to trade me for some of those peas?”
“All I got’s my prize marble here.”
“Is that right? Let me see it,” said Mr. Miller.
“Here ‘tis. She’s a dandy!”
“I can see that. Hmm, mmm. Only thing is, this one is blue and I sort of go for red. Do you have a red one like this at home?” the store owner asked.
“Not zackley, but almost.”
“Tell you what. Take this sack of peas home with you and next trip this way let me look at that red marble,” Mr. Miller told the boy.
“Sure will. Thanks, Mr. Miller.”
Mrs. Miller, who had been standing nearby, came over to help me.
With a smile, she said, “There are two other boys like him in our community. All three are in very poor circumstances. Jim just loves to bargain with them for peas, apples, tomatoes, or whatever.”
“When they come back with their red marbles, and they always do, he decides he doesn’t like red after all. So he sends them home with a bag of produce for a green marble or an orange one, when they come on their next trip to the store.”
I left the store smiling to myself, impressed with this man. A short time later, I moved to Colorado. But I never forgot the story of this man, the boys, and their bartering for marbles.
Several years went by, each more rapid than the previous one. Just recently I had occasion to visit some old friends in that Idaho community. While I was there I learned that Mr. Miller had died.
They were having his visitation that evening, and knowing my friends wanted to go, I agreed to accompany them. Upon arrival at the mortuary, we fell into line to meet the relatives of the deceased and to offer whatever words of comfort we could.
Ahead of us in line were three young men. One was in an army uniform and the other two wore nice haircuts, dark suits and white shirts, all very professional looking. They approached Mrs. Miller, standing composed and smiling by her husband’s casket.
Each of the young men hugged her, kissed her on the cheek, spoke briefly with her and moved on to the casket. Her misty light blue eyes followed them as, one by one, each young man stopped briefly and placed his own warm hand over the cold pale hand in the casket. Each left the mortuary awkwardly, wiping his eyes.
Our turn came to meet Mrs. Miller. I told her who I was and reminded her of the story from those many years ago and what she had told me about her husband’s bartering for marbles. With her eyes glistening, she took my hand and led me to the casket.
“Those three young men who just left were the boys I told you about.”
“They just now told me how much they appreciated the things Jim ‘traded’ them. Now, at last, when Jim could not change his mind about color or size, they came to pay their debt.”
“We’ve never had a great deal of the wealth of this world,” she confided. “But right now, Jim would consider himself the richest man in Idaho.”
With loving gentleness she lifted the lifeless fingers of her deceased husband. Resting underneath his hand were three exquisitely shined red marbles.
The moral of this story: We will be remembered not only by our words, but especially by our deeds of kindness.
Jesus said: “Whatever you have done for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you have done it for me.” (Matt. 25:40)
For what will you be remembered?