Today’s Word from Pastor Tom Kidd…
Originally published in 1955, “Profiles in Courage,” written by John Kennedy, chronicles the stories of 8 United States Senators whose acts of bravery and integrity mirrored the best of American democracy. Given our current political realities, a reread of this American classic, which won for Kennedy a Pulitzer Prize (though widely considered to have been ghost written by Ted Sorensen) might prove meritorious. We do not read much these days of elected oﬃcials acting in courage inspired by deep seated values meant to be selfless expressions of regard for the greater good.
“Did you paint the underside of the chair?” I did not immediately get the gist of his question. It was a metaphor he was using; I was not painting a chair. He was asking if I had completed the whole job, not just the obvious parts. I hadn’t. I was kind of embarrassed. I had, for all practical purposes, completed the task while leaving unseen parts unfinished. I did not like that feeling of someone being able to assess my spirit, my worth, by my incomplete eﬀort. Apparently, that lesson became burned into my psyche and instrumental in my decision making.
Fast forward twenty years and another lifetime. I was now a pastor in Canada and had traveled with the chairman of our congregation to attend our national church Convention. He was a relatively young Christian. We were pretty excited. It was a big adventure. Traveling down the coast of British Columbia via two ferries to attend a national gathering was for us, besides a great honor, a bit of an escape. We didn’t “get out” much. When we arrived our accommodations were, to say the least, awful!
One step up (?) from the Bates Motel. We shared a double room, the door jam on our door had been kicked in, and the door would not lock. I joked (only slightly) there appeared to be a faint chalk outline of a body on the burned carpet. When we finally got a towel, it was a hand towel and washcloth. One set a piece, thankfully. It was awful.
On the 3rd day as we were preparing to depart for home, I mentioned I still owed 50 cents for a phone call. Really, for our Motel Bates experience who would have faulted me for simply driving oﬀ stiﬃng them the change? But I didn’t. I stopped at the office and paid my 50-cent local phone charge. It was a ridiculously small thing and quickly forgotten. Small thing to me, certainly not any profile in courage moment. Apparently, it meant a great deal more to my young parishioner. Months later as he was speaking of an ongoing faith crisis, he mentioned how my doing the right thing that day, at that rundown motel, had been important to him. It had provided for him a touchstone moment of sorts, that in his uncertainty had aided him in making some important decisions. I was amazed, it was such a small thing… to me. For him, it amounted to painting the underside of the chair.
“Cast your bread upon the waters for in many days it shall return to you,” Ecclesiastes 11:1.
What a fascinating exhortation. With a spirit of courage go do the right thing, even small things. Go be generous, go pick up a trivial piece of litter, go let the harried mother step in front of you at the checkout stand, go against your natural inclinations and pass a few bucks to the beggar, “Go!” Boldly scatter your willingness to paint the underside of the chair just for the sake of doing it because one day it shall return to you. I love this line of scripture, “Cast your bread upon the waters…” It sounds wasteful, who would do such a thing? Followers of Jesus would, you would, “… for in many days it shall return to you.”
Soon, Pastor Tom