I recently was reminded of the story of a religious leader who ministered to the needs of a rather wealthy congregation.
An elderly man in his congregation had lost his wife. The minister was concerned because the man had no relatives close by and, unlike several of the other parishioners, he was of poor means. He drove an older car, and though when he went to services he took care to dress neatly, it was clear that his clothes had seen better days.
The minister decided it was time to pay a social call. It was a late Sunday afternoon at the edge of winter, and the skies had already darkened, perhaps in anticipation of a cold rain.
The minister walked up the creaky stairs of the apartment building and knocked on the door. After a minute or two, the wooden door slowly opened, and the old man, dressed in a white shirt, suit trousers and a very out-of-date tie, smiled broadly.
“Please come in,” said the old man. “I am just sitting down to Sunday dinner and have more than enough to share.”
The minister politely declined, saying he and his wife and their children had dinner plans, but he would value visiting for a while.
Less Is More!
The table was set for one. There was a plate with a single slice of bread, one small piece of chicken and some vegetables. No other food could be seen. The minister swallowed hard, realizing that the man was willing to share what he had.
In addition to the place setting were three other objects on the table: a small glass of wine, a well-worn Bible and an ornate, silver candleholder. There was a lit candle in the holder, and it bathed everything in its soft and flickering glow. The minister was invited to sit at the table while the man put his food by the stove.
The minister wasted little time. He wondered how the man was getting along.
“Oh, I am getting along just fine, no complaints.”
The man had a big fat cat, quite affectionate, who plopped himself in the old man’s lap. The cat purred softly and seemed quite content.
The minister asked the old man not if he missed his wife, but how he missed his wife. It was an interesting question.
“She taught me to live simply,” he said. “To not ask for more than we needed, to give to those who had less and to never be jealous of those who had more.”
Those were wise words, the minister mused, but don’t you need something? Is there something our congregation could be doing for you?
The minister was obviously hinting at some sort of a donation or a food basket delivery or perhaps new clothes.
The Embodiment of Unselfishness
“Well, there is something,” he said.
The minister lightened. At last, they could do something for this fine gentleman! The old man continued:
“I noticed a new family at services last week, and they seemed like they were going through hard times. Could the congregation help them out?”
It was everything the minister could do to hold himself together.
“I mean you, sir! What can we do for you?”
“I am full enough,” said the old man. “I have enough food. I have my books and my Bible and even a couple of friends. I cannot bring back my wife, but I am filled with her always.”
“Could we help you out with your utilities, perhaps? At least let us do that. You shouldn’t have to sit in the darkness.”
The old man smiled. He said the candlestick had been in his family for three generations. Each Sunday at his modest dinner, he lit a candle. It brought back a flood of wonderful memories from his childhood, and it made him happy.
“I am not sitting in the darkness,” he said. “My home is filled with light, and I am blessed.”
Never underestimate the difference you can make in the lives of others. Helping other people can be a cure, not just for those who are in need, but for your soul as well. Always help someone. You might be the only one who does. In the rush to accumulate things, we often fail to realize that our greatest gift to others and ourselves is the splendor of our own light.