Here's Pastor Dave McDowell's weekly devotional that he sends out to members of his church. Dave is my brother and serves as the Music Minister at Stewartstown UMC in PA.
Sometimes, it's the little things that mean a lot.
Sometimes, they mean everything.
I didn't recognize him.
If you have ever had the experience of greeting well wishers
as they come to the funeral of someone you have loved,
you know how exhausting it is.
There are only so many words of kindness
that can be said to a hurting soul
before they all begin to run together.
You never can be sure either,
of who will come to offer their sympathies.
There is for sure, extended family.
There are friends and acquaintances.
And then there are those few people who you simply do not know.
He came up to the coffin to offer his final respects to the woman that I knew as mom.
He was an elderly man.
He looked like he could have used a shave,
and maybe a change of clothes.
In the few seconds that I had between conversations,
my mind went through an ID check.
I could not place him.
Inside the coffin,
there were various mementos from the family.....
notes, photographs, stuffed animals
Curiously, the old man reached out and touched one of the photos.
It was a photo of Jack.
Jack was the donkey that my mom had purchased years ago
to graze in the meadow and to protect the herd of sheep.
We had to put Jack down a year ago.
The tears began to well up in the old man's eyes.
Maybe he was the former owner of Jack.
Perhaps mom had purchased Jack from him.
I greeted him.
With the most sincerest of expressions, he said
I am so sorry for your loss.
Your mother was a dear woman.
I thanked him for his kind thoughts
and then asked if he was the one from whom mom had purchased Jack.
No, no, he said.
My wife and I would come and visit Jack every few weeks.
We would bring him carrots and apples.
We so enjoyed visiting him.
Your mother would come out of the house
and visit with us.
She would tell us stories about the farm,
the family, and Jack.
We spent many wonderful hours with her and Jack.
My memory was triggered.
I now remembered a car that would occasionally pull into the driveway.
I remembered seeing a couple leaning over the pasture fence feeding Jack and talking with mom.
I also remembered that of late, I had only seen the man.
My wife passed eight years ago, he said.
I didn't think that I was going to make it through.
I have missed her so much.
There were times when I just wanted to die and go be with her.
It was those trips to your farm to visit Jack and your mom that got me through.
I didn't know what to say.
In the midst of my pain,
this man was revealing his,
and thus somehow was helping me.
When I would visit by myself,
Jack would come up to me and let me pet him.
In a strange way, he seemed to know that I was hurting.
He became one of my best friends.
Your mom would come out and talk with me.
She would share how much she had missed your dad over the years.
She understood, and so did Jack.
I just wanted to come today and offer my respects.
Without Jack and her,
I don't think I would have made it.
I thanked the man for his kind words.
He didn't stay for the service,
so I never saw him again.
I don't know his name
nor from where he came.
All I know is that the simplest thing such as a donkey,
and the kind words of an empathetic mother,
made all the difference in this man's life.
Little things sometimes mean everything,
and yet if we are honest,
we often forget to practice them or we take them for granted.
It might be a smile to a stranger,
an unexpected act of kindness,
or taking time to just listen to someone who is in pain.
We are each given 24 hours each day.
24 hours to do all the things that are required of us.
24 hours to be moms, dads, children, employees,
and yes, encouragers.
I believe that my mother lived the way she did,
because she was grateful to God for all that had been given to her.
People with grateful hearts live gracious lives.
People who don't take time to reflect on God's goodness,
simply miss the opportunities that are presented daily
to be gracious to others.
A friend once shared this thought with me......
What if you woke up tomorrow
to only that which you had given thanks for yesterday?
How would you be?
As you approach this season of thanksgiving,
choose to make it a lifestyle of thanksgiving.
If a donkey can help change someone's life,
how much more can you do the same.............
And whatever you do in word or deed,
do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,
giving thanks through Him,
to God the Father.