Winston Churchill is quoted as saying, “We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give,” and in Galatians 6:9 we find, “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
The phone rang and my boss made a request.
I worked for a nonprofit and our goal and ministry was in service of others in our community. However, this phone call to serve others was not, I admit, taken in this noble vein of comforting those in emotional, physical distress, or need.
The request was to go and purchase a turkey.
He continued, the turkey was for a selfless volunteer who had received the devastating news that her husband was being put on life support and that their family had been summoned to say their goodbyes. He also qualified the purchase of the turkey by asking that the “gobbler” be thirty pounds or more and not frozen, so that our kitchen staff could cook the meal in preparation for the family’s comfort and to practically support the grieving members.
I hung up the phone and I immediately had a discussion with myself.
Doesn't anybody understand that it is Christmas time? The busiest time of the year? My afternoon was already planned out. I was tired, and besides, this close to the holiday, where was I going to find a defrosted turkey of that size so it could be cooked that afternoon?
Well, in obedience, off I went wondering where the object of my errand could be found close by, so as to minimize my involvement and help me get on with my day.
Pulling into the parking lot, I was still thinking selfishly of myself, how I was on a fool’s errand and already thinking that my efforts would not be successful.
Wandering around a strange grocery store did nothing to sweeten my disposition, as it seemed that the design of the store was laid out to frustrate the shopper rather than facilitate the shopping experience.
After numerous wrong turns, I ended up in the meat department and sure enough, my “self-fulfilling prophecy” found the frozen turkeys. Despite my repeated thumpings on the birds, none of them responded by saying, “I'm thawed.”
Well, strike one. Next store coming up, I thought. When all of a sudden a thought crossed my mind about asking someone in the meat department as to whether there were other birds located elsewhere. Worth a shot, I reasoned.
Going back in the store, I flagged down a worker in the meat department as witnessed by his white butcher’s apron. I asked about unfrozen turkeys and half expected a look of, “What, are you crazy?” To my surprise, he escorted me to an area where there were about five refrigerated turkeys, all the same size, and soft as my heart was becoming.
Feeling much better because of this minor miracle, I made my way to the checkout register. Waiting my turn and standing behind a man checking out, I was musing on my attitude and my stroke of “luck” in finding this bird. All of a sudden, my thoughts were interrupted when I heard someone say, “And I'll pay for this man's turkey.”
Stunned, I asked the man and the cashier, “What did he say?” The cashier said, “He wants to purchase the turkey for you.”
I was overwhelmed.
Beginning to understand what was unfolding, I emotionally told the man thank you, and asked if I could briefly share with him who the turkey was for, and his involvement in being part of a small, but powerful act of human kindness.
He seemed interested, and life for a brief but shining moment, illuminated the cast and characters on checkout lane number four in that perfectly designed grocery store.
I simply said that this turkey was going to be prepared for a family who had been summoned to say their farewell to their father, grandfather and husband. That the man they were saying goodbye to had been suffering for about a year, was now on life support and wasn't expected to make it through the night.
The impact of that beautiful moment was not lost on the cashier, the customer behind me, myself, or my generous “pay it forward” benefactor. In an instant, complete strangers were bonded together in a very precious moment that started out as a simple grocery purchase, to a lesson in life.
I don't believe there was a dry eye at checkout lane number 4.
I cannot speak for the fellow students who were in that classroom we all attended that day. We probably all learned different lessons, but for me, I came away with one powerful instruction. Yes, it was about human kindness. Yes, it was about listening to that inner voice, and yes it is about the importance of interacting for our good as well as the good of others.
But, for me, the overriding lesson is that we truly reap what we sow. That is, what is planted is what we receive. What we give is what we get. It is an agricultural and spiritual law.
In this case, the obedience to the flow of life by an individual—myself—who thought that service was about doing, but not about being, found himself emotionally drained. I needed a boost and this infusion of positive emotion was gained by the giving of myself for another, through the simple, practical and divine purchase of a turkey by another.
In giving of myself, despite my negativity, bad attitude, disgruntlement, pride, etc., I found myself rewarded with a powerful demonstration of love and joy in response to my sown seeds of obedience on a mission of compassion.
Born in Toronto, Canada, Brian Aird emigrated with his parents to Chicago, Illinois and eventually enjoyed the small town life of Wausau, Wisconsin.
Upon graduation from high school and one year of study at the University of Wisconsin in Madison, a 10-year commitment of service in the United States Navy was afforded which included many opportunities of education, life experience and travel.
After being honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy, he attended The Salvation Army School for Officer’s Training and was commissioned as an officer in The Salvation Army where he served in various communities throughout the western United States for a period of 12 years.
Following this life changing experience, the American Red Cross became a new arena of service for 10 years. Currently, his vocation is once again with The Salvation Army where he serves in Northern California as the business coordinator. Four lovely children and eight darling grandchildren decorate the lives of he and his wife.
He is an avid Green Bay Packers fan, enjoys the game of hockey and loves to write.
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