Posts Tagged ‘compassion’

Old Jack – an inspirational story

December 31, 2009

Old Jack

The man slowly looked up. This was a woman clearly accustomed to the finer things of life. Her coat was new. She looked like that she had never missed a meal in her life. His first thought was that she wanted to make fun of him, like so many others had done before.

‘Leave me alone,’ he growled.

To his amazement, the woman continued standing. She was smiling — her even white teeth displayed in dazzling rows. ‘Are you hungry?’ she asked.

‘No,’ he answered sarcastically. ‘I’ve just come from dining with the president. Now go away.’

The woman’s smile became even broader. Suddenly the man felt a gentle hand under his arm.

‘What are you doing, lady?’ the man asked angrily. ‘I said to leave me alone.

Just then a policeman came up. ‘Is there any problem, ma’am?’ he asked.

‘No problem here, officer,’ the woman answered. ‘I’m just trying to get this man to his feet. Will you help me?

The officer scratched his head.  ‘That’s old Jack. He’s been a fixture around here for a couple of years. What do you want with him?’

‘See that cafeteria over there?’ she asked. ‘I’m going to get him something to eat and get him out of the cold for awhile.’

‘Are you crazy, lady?’ the homeless man resisted. ‘I don’t want to go in there!’ Then he felt strong hands grab his other arm and lift him up.

‘Let me go, officer. I didn’t do anything.’

‘This is a good deal for you, Jack,’ the officer answered. ‘Don’t blow it…’

Finally, and with some difficulty, the woman and the police officer got Jack into the cafeteria and sat him at a table in a remote corner. It was the middle of the morning, so most of the breakfast crowd had already left and the lunch bunch had not yet arrived. The manager strode across the cafeteria and stood by his table.

‘What’s going on here, officer?’ he asked. ‘What is all this. Is this man in trouble?’

‘This lady brought this man in here to be fed,’ the policeman answered.

‘Not in here!’ the manager replied angrily. ‘Having a person like that here is bad for business.’

Old Jack smiled a toothless grin. ‘See, lady. I told you so. Now if you’ll let me go. I didn’t want to come here in the first place.’

The woman turned to the cafeteria manager and smiled. ‘Sir, are you familiar with Eddy and Associates, the banking firm down the street?’

‘Of course I am,’ the manager answered impatiently. ‘They hold their weekly meetings in one of my banquet rooms.’

‘And do you make a goodly amount of money providing food at these weekly meetings?’

‘What business is that of yours?’

I, sir, am Penelope Eddy, president and CEO of the company.’

‘Oh.’  The woman smiled again. ‘I thought that might make a difference.’ She glanced at the cop who was busy stifling a giggle. ‘Would you like to join us in a cup of coffee and a meal, officer?’

‘No thanks, ma’am,’ the officer replied. ‘I’m on duty.’

‘Then, perhaps, a cup of coffee to go?’

‘Yes, ma’am. That would be very nice.’

The cafeteria manager turned on his heel, ‘I’ll get your coffee for you right away, officer.’

The officer watched him walk away. ‘You certainly put him in his place,’ he said.

‘That was not my intent. Believe it or not, I have a reason for all this’

She sat down at the table across from her amazed dinner guest. She stared at him intently. ‘Jack, do you remember me?’

Old Jack searched her face with his old, rheumy eyes ‘I think so — I mean you do look familiar.’

‘I’m a little older perhaps,’ she said. ‘Maybe I’ve even filled out more than in my younger days when you worked here, and I came through that very door, cold and hungry.’

‘Ma’am?’ the officer said questioningly.  He couldn’t believe that such a magnificently turned out woman could ever have been hungry.

‘I was just out of college,’ the woman began. ‘I had come to the city looking for a job, but I couldn’t find anything.  Finally I was down to my last few cents and had been kicked out of my apartment. I walked the streets for days. It was February and I was cold and nearly starving. I saw this place and walked in on the off chance that I could get something to eat.’

Jack lit up with a smile.  ‘Now I remember,’ he said. ‘I was behind the serving counter. You came up and asked me if you could work for something to eat. I said that it was against company policy’

‘I know,’ the woman continued. ‘Then you made me the biggest roast beef sandwich that I had ever seen, gave me a cup of coffee, and told me to go over to a corner table and enjoy it. I was afraid that you would get into trouble. Then, when I looked over, I saw you put the price of my food in the cash register I knew then that everything would be all right.’

‘So you started your own business?’ Old Jack said.

‘I got a job that very afternoon. I worked my way up.    Eventually I started my own business, that, with the help of God, prospered.’ She opened her purse and pulled out a business card. ‘When you are finished here, I want you to pay a visit to a Mr. Lyons. He’s the personnel director of my company. I’ll go talk to him now and I’m certain he’ll find something for you to do around the office.’  She smiled.

‘I think he might even find the funds to give you a little advance so that you can buy some clothes and get a place to live until you get on your feet. If you ever need anything, my door is always opened to you.’

There were tears in the old man’s eyes. ‘How can I ever thank you?’ he said.

‘Don’t thank me,’ the woman answered. ‘To God goes the glory. Thank Jesus… He led me to you.’

Outside the cafeteria, the officer and the woman paused at the entrance before going their separate ways. ‘Thank you for all your help, officer,’ she said.

‘On the contrary, Ms. Eddy,’ he answered. ‘Thank you. I saw a miracle today, something that I will never forget. And… and thank you for the coffee.’

If you have missed knowing me, you have missed nothing. If you have missed some of my emails, you might have missed a laugh.

But, if you have missed knowing my LORD and SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST, you have missed everything in the world.

Have a Wonderful Day. May God Bless You Always. And don’t forget that when you ‘cast your bread upon the waters,’ you never know how it will be returned to you.

(Hope this is repeated many times today!)

God is so big He can cover the whole world with his Love and so small He can curl up inside your heart.

The Best Christmas of My Life – an inspirational story

December 27, 2009

Pa never had such compassion for the lazy or those who squandered their means and then never had enough for the necessities. But for those who were genuinely in need, his heart was as big as all outdoors. It was from him that I learned the greatest joy in life comes from giving, not from receiving.

It was Christmas Eve 1881. I was fifteen years old and feeling like the world had caved in on me because there just hadn’t been enough money to buy me the rifle that I’d wanted for Christmas. We did the chores early that night for some reason. I just figured Pa wanted a little extra time so we could read in the Bible.

After supper was over I took my boots off and stretched out in front of the fireplace and waited for Pa to get down the old Bible. I was still feeling sorry for myself and, to be honest, I wasn’t in much of a mood to read Scriptures. But Pa didn’t get the Bible, instead he bundled up again and went outside. I couldn’t figure it out because we had already done all the chores. I didn’t worry about it long though, I was too busy wallowing in self-pity.

Soon Pa came back in. It was a cold clear night out and there was ice in his beard. “Come on, Matt,” he said. “Bundle up good, it’s cold out tonight.” I was really upset then. Not only wasn’t I getting the rifle for Christmas, now Pa was dragging me out in the cold, and for no earthly reason that I could see. We’d already done all the chores, and I couldn’t think of anything else that needed doing, especially not on a night like this. But I knew Pa was not very patient at one dragging one’s feet when he’d told them to do something, so I got up and put my boots back on and got my cap, coat, and mittens. Ma gave me a mysterious smile as I opened the door to leave the house.  Something was up, but I didn’t know what.

Outside, I became even more dismayed. There in front of the house was the work team, already hitched to the big sled. Whatever it was we were going to do wasn’t going to be a short, quick, little job. I could tell. We never hitched up this sled unless we were going to haul a big load.

Pa was already up on the seat, reins in hand. I reluctantly climbed up beside him. The cold was already biting at me. I wasn’t happy. When I was on, Pa pulled the sled around the house and stopped in front of the woodshed. He got off and I followed. “I think we’ll put on the high sideboards,” he said. “Here, help me.” The high sideboards! It had been a bigger job than I wanted to do with just the low sideboards on, but whatever it was we were going to do would be a lot bigger with the high sideboards on.

After we had exchanged the sideboards, Pa went into the woodshed and came out with an armload of wood—the wood I’d spent all summer hauling down from the mountain, and then all fall sawing into blocks and splitting. What was he doing? Finally I said something. “Pa,” I asked, “what are you doing?” You been by the Widow Jensen’s lately?” he asked. The Widow Jensen lived about two miles down the road. Her husband had died a year or so before and left her with three children, the oldest being eight. Sure, I’d been by, but so what? “Yeah,” I said, “Why?”

“I rode by just today,” Pa said. “Little Jakey was out digging around in the woodpile trying to find a few chips. They’re out of wood, Matt.”

That was all he said and then he turned and went back into the woodshed for another armload of wood. I followed him. We loaded the sled so high that I began to wonder if the horses would be able to pull it.

Finally, Pa called a halt to our loading, then we went to the smokehouse and Pa took down a big ham and a side of bacon. He handed them to me and told me to put them in the sled and wait.

When he returned he was carrying a sack of flour over his right shoulder and a smaller sack of something in his left hand. “What’s in the little sack?” I asked. “Shoes. They’re out of shoes. Little Jakey just had gunnysacks wrapped around his feet when he was out in the woodpile this morning.

I got the children a little candy too. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without a little candy.”

We rode the two miles to Widow Jensen’s pretty much in silence. I tried to think through what Pa was doing. We didn’t have much by worldly standards. Of course, we did have a big woodpile, though most of what was left now was still in the form of logs that I would have to saw into blocks and split before we could use it. We also had meat and flour, so we could spare that, but I knew we didn’t have any money, so why was Pa buying them shoes and candy?

Really, why was he doing any of this? Widow Jensen had closer neighbors than us; it shouldn’t have been our concern. We came in from the blind side of the Jensen house and unloaded the wood as quietly as possible, then we took the meat and flour and shoes to the door. We knocked. The door opened a crack and a timid voice said, “Who is it?”

“Lucas Miles, Ma’am, and my son, Matt. Could we come in for a bit?”

Widow Jensen opened the door and let us in. She had a blanket wrapped around her shoulders. The children were wrapped in another and were sitting in front of the fireplace by a very small fire that hardly gave off any heat at all. Widow Jensen fumbled with a match and finally lit the lamp.

“We brought you a few things, Ma’am,” Pa said and set down the sack of flour. I put the meat on the table. Then Pa handed her the sack that had the shoes in it.

She opened it hesitantly and took the shoes out one pair at a time. There was a pair for her and one for each of the children—sturdy shoes, the best, shoes that would last. I watched her carefully. She bit her lower lip to keep it from trembling and then tears filled her eyes and started running down her cheeks. She looked up at Pa like she wanted to say something, but it wouldn’t come out.

“We brought a load of wood too, Ma’am,” Pa said. He turned to me and said, “Matt, go bring in enough to last awhile. Let’s get that fire up to size and heat this place up.” I wasn’t the same person when I went back out to bring in the wood. I had a big lump in my throat and as much as I hate to admit it, there were tears in my eyes too.

In my mind I kept seeing those three kids huddled around the fireplace and their mother standing there with tears running down her cheeks with so much gratitude in her heart that she couldn’t speak. My heart swelled within me and a joy that I’d never known before, filled my soul. I had given at Christmas many times before, but never when it had made so much difference.

I could see we were literally saving the lives of these people.

I soon had the fire blazing and everyone’s spirits soared. The kids started giggling when Pa handed them each a piece of candy and Widow Jensen looked on with a smile that probably hadn’t crossed her face for a long time. She finally turned to us. “God bless you,” she said. “I know the Lord has sent you. The children and I have been praying that he would send one of his angels to spare us.”

In spite of myself, the lump returned to my throat and the tears welled up in my eyes again. I’d never thought of Pa in those exact terms before, but after Widow Jensen mentioned it I could see that it was probably true.

I was sure that a better man than Pa had never walked the earth. I started remembering all the times he had gone out of his way for Ma and me, and many others. The list seemed endless as I thought on it.

Pa insisted that everyone try on the shoes before we left. I was amazed when they all fit and I wondered how he had known what sizes to get.

Then I guessed that if he was on an errand for the Lord, that the Lord would make sure he got the right sizes.

Tears were running down Widow Jensen’s face again when we stood up to leave. Pa took each of the kids in his big arms and gave them a hug.

They clung to him and didn’t want us to go. I could see that they missed their Pa, and I was glad that I still had mine.

At the door Pa turned to Widow Jensen and said, “The Mrs. wanted me to invite you and the children over for Christmas dinner tomorrow. The turkey will be more than the three of us can eat, and a man can get cantankerous if he has to eat turkey for too many meals. We’ll be by to get you about eleven. It’ll be nice to have some little ones around again. Matt, here, hasn’t been little for quite a spell.” I was the youngest. My two brothers and two sisters had all married and had moved away. Widow Jensen nodded and said, “Thank you, Brother Miles. I don’t have to say, “‘May the Lord bless you,’ I know for certain that He will.”

Out on the sled I felt a warmth that came from deep within and I didn’t even notice the cold. When we had gone a ways, Pa turned to me and said, “Matt, I want you to know something. Your ma and me have been tucking a little money away here and there all year so we could buy that rifle for you, but we didn’t have quite enough.

Then yesterday a man who owed me a little money from years back came by to make things square. Your ma and me were real excited, thinking that now we could get you that rifle, and I started into town this morning to do just that. But on the way I saw little Jakey out scratching in the woodpile with his feet wrapped in those gunnysacks and I knew what I had to do. Son, I spent the money for shoes and a little candy for those children. I hope you understand.”

I understood, and my eyes became wet with tears again. I understood very well, and I was so glad Pa had done it. Now the rifle seemed very low on my list of priorities. Pa had given me a lot more. He had given me the look on Widow Jensen’s face and the radiant smiles of her three children.  For the rest of my life, Whenever I saw any of the Jensens, or split a block of wood, I remembered, and remembering brought back that same joy I felt riding home beside Pa that night. Pa had given me much more than a rifle that night, he had given me the best Christmas of my life.


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