Deeds, not Words

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In Charles Schultz’s comic strip Peanuts, Linus and Charlie Brown are depicted as being all bundled up with caps and coats on a snowy, wintry day. They spot Snoopy shivering in the cold. Desiring to comfort him, they walk over to him.

Linus speaks first, “Be of good cheer, Snoopy.”

Charlie Brown adds, “Yes, be of good cheer.”

Then they turn and walk away. Snoopy is left still shivering. A large question mark appears over Snoopy’s puzzled expression as he watches Linus and Charlie Brown walk away.

Love is intended to carry us beyond words to deeds.

For many of us, it is easier to love from a distance rather than “up close and personal” because it is not as complicated or as involved.

Sometimes it is easier to see the forest rather than the trees.

Sometimes it is easier to write a check to a relief agency than to love or take care of our neighbor next door.

Sometimes it is easier to say a prayer for the person far away than to reach out physically to someone in the same predicament locally.

Real caring occurs on a one-on-one basis and must be more than simply giving it lip-service.

Our caring for one another might occur through a counseling appointment,

a hospital call,

a nursing home visit,

a twenty-minute meeting on the parking lot with a friend,

or a brief encounter in an aisle at the grocery store with someone who simply needs for us to listen.

It might occur by phoning an estranged acquaintance,

delivering cookies to a shut-in,

spending time with someone who is lonely,

helping an elderly neighbor with shopping or yard work,

or reading to someone who is blind or incapacitated.

When we do some love, we are to be there for each other.

There are many lives that we can touch and befriend. There are countless people who are hurting, unhappy, and unloved in our communities and they long to see love presented in deeds, not just in words. The work that we do on a one-on-one basis in sharing love has a great and immediate impact.

Charles “Chuck” Swindoll, in his book, Improving Your Serve illustrates this point. Swindoll writes: “Early one chilly morning an American soldier was making his way back to the barracks in London. As he turned the corner in his jeep, he spotted a little lad with his nose pressed to the window of a pastry shop. Inside, the cook was kneading dough for a fresh batch of pastries. The hungry boy stared in silence, watching every move. The soldier pulled his jeep to the curb, stopped, left his vehicle and walked quietly over to where the little fellow was standing. Through the steamed window he could see the mouthwatering morsels as they were being pulled from the oven, piping hot. The soldier’s heart went out to the nameless child as he stood beside him.

“Son, would you like some of those?”

The boy was startled.

“Oh, yes sir, I would,” said the lad.

The soldier stepped inside and bought a dozen, put them in a bag, and walked back to where the lad was standing in the foggy and damp cold of the London morning. He smiled, held out the bag, and simply said, “Here you are.”  As he turned to walk away, he felt a tug on his coat. He looked down at the boy and heard the child ask quietly, “Mister, are you God?”

We are not told what the soldier’s reply was to the lad that day, but whatever his response, he embodied what Father Jerome Cummings had in mind when he wrote: “Love is shown in your deeds, not in your words.”

 

 

An Attitude of Gratitude

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Since today is Thanksgiving Day in the United States, I thought that some words about having what I like to call “an attitude of gratitude” would be appropriate. So here goes.

The story is told of Mike and Charlie, two old friends who bumped into one another on the street one day. Mike looked forlorn, almost on the verge of tears. His friend, Charlie, asked him, “What has the world done to you, my old friend?”

Mike said, “Let me tell you. Three weeks ago, an uncle died and left me forty thousand dollars.”

“That’s a lot of money,” said Charlie.

Mike continued. “But, two weeks ago, a cousin I never even knew died, and left me eighty-five thousand dollars free and clear.”

“Sounds like you’ve been blessed,” Charlie responded.

“You don’t understand!” Mike interrupted. “Last week, my great-aunt passed away. I inherited almost a quarter of a million dollars.”

Now Charlie was really confused. “Then, why do you look so glum?” he asked.

Mike replied, “This week – nothing!”

That is the trouble with receiving something on a regular basis. Even if it is a gift, we eventually come to expect it. We have been blessed to live in a land of plenty and as a result we become complacent and many times we are completely unwilling to give thanks to anyone for anything. I am reminded of the little boy who, on his return from a school party, was asked by his mother,  “Bobby, did you thank the lady for the party?” Bobby answered, “Well, I was going to, but the girl ahead of me said, ‘Thank you,’ and the lady told her not to mention it. So I didn’t.” It almost seems that we have to be trained to express gratitude, doesn’t it?

“Attitude is everything” we say.  Well, it is no different when it comes to thanksgiving. The attitude we carry with us through life is of paramount importance if we are truly to live lives that demonstrate our gratitude.

I suspect that not everyone feels particularly thankful on this day of national thanksgiving. Perhaps the pain of life has overwhelmed them to the point where they do not see any more how blessed they truly are. Like so many people today, maybe they have been so blessed, that even those blessings do not look all that good anymore.

How, then, can we overcome such a mindset of dispiritedness and turn it more towards a true spirit of thanksgiving in a culture that teaches us to enter into the rat-race and compete for status with a world of un-thankful people? Well, I do not pretend to have all of the answers, but I do believe that at the very least we need to recognize the blessings that we have come to take for granted. If we focus on what we have rather than on what we do not have, I believe that our attitude of gratitude will improve.

Here are a few suggestions that I believe will improve our attitude of gratitude:

  • Be thankful that you do not already have everything you want because if you did, what would there be to look forward to?
  • Be thankful when you do not know something because this gives you the opportunity to learn.
  • Be thankful for the difficult times because during those times you can grow.
  • Be thankful for your limitations because they give you opportunities for improvement.
  • Be thankful for each new challenge because it will build strength and character.
  • Be thankful for your mistakes because they can teach you valuable lessons.
  • Be thankful when you are tired and weary because it means you have made a difference.

It is easy to be thankful for the good things in life, but a life of true fulfillment comes to those who are also thankful for the setbacks in life. As hard as it may be, we should try to find a way to even be thankful for our troubles. Who knows, they may become our blessings.

The following story from the Peanuts carton strip illustrates this last point. In the cartoon, good old Charlie Brown brings out Snoopy’s dinner on Thanksgiving Day. But it is just his usual dog food in a bowl. Snoopy takes one look at the dog food and thinks, “This isn’t fair. The rest of the world today is eating turkey with all the trimmings, but because I’m a dog, all I get is dog food.” He stands there for a moment and stares at his dog food and then muses, “I guess it could be worse. I could be a turkey!”

You know, there is always something for which to be thankful.

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 Happy Thanksgiving Day!