A Valuable Service

Once there was a man who traveled all his life; and as he traveled, he served a valuable purpose in the world.

The man was very poor. He had no land; he had no money; he didn’t even have shoes. All he had was a pair of tattered trousers and the contents of their pockets, a ragged shirt and an old cloak. The cloak was his coat and his blanket; on warm days when he needed neither coat nor blanket, it was his pillow when he lay down to sleep.

On his bare feet, he walked over meadows and cobblestones, through streams and over hills. He walked when the cobblestones were so hot they blistered the soles of his feet and when the weather was so cold it turned his toes blue and he had to stop along the way and build a fire. Then he would wrap himself in his cloak and sleep alongside the fire until it burned low and the cold woke him up once more.

You may be wondering how this man, who owned nothing at all, did not starve to death. He was not a beggar. He never asked for a thing. While he was willing to work, it was not often that he was offered a job to do. And yet he ate at least one full meal a day and sometimes as many as three.

The secret was in the man’s demeanor. When he came upon anyone else on the roads he traveled, he always said a cheerful “Hello,” smiled broadly and tipped an imaginary hat. When the fellow traveler smiled, he would smile once more and say cheerfully, “I must be on my way to find my supper.”

Invariably, the passerby would say, “Where do you plan to dine?” And the man would reply cheerfully, “I will dine in a castle on the provender of a king.”

Fully intrigued, the travelers he met nearly always stopped in their tracks to survey this strange, poverty stricken, cheerful individual. Of course, they had to ask, “Where is this castle where you will dine?”

The man would look around and survey the world around him. He would point out the wild flowers surrounding them, the clouds in the sky and the way the sun lit up the roadway and cast shadows from the trees. “Sir, (or Ma’am)” he would say, “God has given me this veritable castle. I spend my days in nature’s beautiful castle, I dine here and I sleep here. There is no grander castle.”

Of course the scoffing stranger would say, “But what will you eat?”

Whereupon the man would say, “The birds do not sow or reap and yet our heavenly Father feeds them. I am sure he will also provide my feast. Yonder is a tree where I can gather nuts. And there is a stream nearby where I dare say I can catch a fish or two.”

At this, he would turn the pocket of his trousers inside out and produce a single fish hook wrapped carefully in a long string, which served dual purposes to prevent the fish hook from puncturing his leg and to be used as a fishing line when necessary. However, it was seldom necessary, because by now the stranger he had encountered was drawing his own lunch from his basket or coins from his pocket. After he had pressed these upon the poor traveler, he went on his way, shaking his head and feeling very good about himself.

Making other people feel good about themselves was the service the poor man provided and he did it very well.

Edwina Williams

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