Humility is Found in Little Hidden Things
THE PICKLE JAR
The pickle jar as far back as I can remember sat on the floor beside the dresser in my parents' bedroom. When he got ready for bed, Dad would empty his pockets and toss his coins into the jar. As a small boy I was always fascinated at the sounds the coins made as they were dropped into the jar. They landed with a merry jingle when the jar was almost empty. Then the tones gradually muted to a dull thud as the jar was filled. I used to squat on the floor in front of the jar and admire the copper and silver circles that glinted like a pirate's treasure when the sun poured through the bedroom window.
When the jar was filled, Dad would sit at the kitchen table and roll the coins before taking them to the bank. Taking the coins to the bank was always a big production. Stacked neatly in a small cardboard box, the coins were placed between Dad and me on the seat of his old truck. Each and every time, as we drove to the bank, Dad would look at me hopefully. "Those coins are going to keep you out of the textile mill, son. You're going to do better than me. This old mill town's not going to hold you back." Also, each and every time, as he slid the box of rolled coins across the counter at the bank toward the cashier, he would grin proudly.
"These are for my son's college fund. He'll never work at the mill all his life like me."
We would always celebrate each deposit by stopping for an ice cream cone. I always got chocolate. Dad always got vanilla. When the clerk at the ice cream parlor handed Dad his change, he would show me the few coins nestled in his palm.
"When we get home, we'll start filling the jar again."
He always let me drop the first coins into the empty jar. As they rattled around with a brief, happy jingle, we grinned at each other.
"You'll get to college on pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters," he said. "But you'll get there. I'll see to that."
The years passed, and I finished college and took a job in another town. Once, while visiting my parents, I used the phone in their bedroom, and noticed that the pickle jar was gone. It had served its purpose and had been removed. A lump rose in my throat as I stared at the spot beside the dresser where the jar had always stood.
My dad was a man of few words, and never lectured me on the values of determination, perseverance, and faith. The pickle jar had taught me all these virtues far more eloquently than the most flowery of words could have done. When I married, I told my wife Susan about the significant part the lowly pickle jar had played in my life as a boy. In my mind, it defined, more than anything else, how much my dad had loved me. No matter how rough things got at home, Dad continued to doggedly drop his coins into the jar. Even the summer when Dad got laid off from the mill, and Mama had to serve dried beans several times a week, not a single dime was taken from the jar. To the contrary, as Dad looked across the table at me, pouring catsup over my beans to make them more palatable, he became more determined than ever to make a way out for me.
"When you finish college, Son," he told me, his eyes glistening, "You'll never have to eat beans again...unless you want to."
The first Christmas after our daughter Jessica was born, we spent the holiday with my parents. After dinner, Mom and Dad sat next to each other on the sofa, taking turns cuddling their first grandchild. Jessica began to whimper softly, and Susan took her from Dad's arms.
"She probably needs to be changed," she said, carrying the baby into my parents' bedroom to diaper her.
When Susan came back into the living room, there was a strange mist in her eyes. She handed Jessica back to Dad before taking my hand and leading me into the room.
"Look," she said softly, her eyes directing me to a spot on the floor beside the dresser. To my amazement, there, as if it had never been removed, stood the old pickle jar, the bottom already covered with coins. I walked over to the pickle jar, dug down into my pocket, and pulled out a fistful of coins.
With a gamut of emotions choking me, I dropped the coins into the jar. I looked up and saw that Dad, carrying Jessica, had slipped quietly into room. Our eyes locked, and I knew he was feeling the same emotions I felt. Neither one of us could speak. This truly touched my heart.....I know it has yours as well.
Sometimes we are so busy adding up our troubles that we forget to count our
blessings. Sorrow looks back. Worry looks around. Faith looks UP!
One Person --Unknown author
Dr. Frank Mayfield was touring Tewksbury Institute when, on his way out, he accidentally collided with an elderly floor maid. To cover the awkward moment Dr. Mayfield started asking questions, "How long have you worked here?"
"I've worked here almost since the place opened," the maid replied. "What can you tell me about the history of this place?" he asked.
"I don't think I can tell you anything, but I could show you something."
With that, she took his hand and led him down to the basement under the oldest section of the building. She pointed to one of what looked like small prison cells, their iron bars rusted with age, and said, "That's the cage where they used to keep Annie."
"Who's Annie?" the doctor asked.
"Annie was a young girl who was brought in here because she was incorrigible - which means nobody could do anything with her. She'd bite and scream and throw her food at people. The doctors and nurses couldn't even examine her or anything. I'd see them trying with her spitting and scratching at them.
I was only a few years younger than her myself and I used to think, 'I sure would hate to be locked up in a cage like that.' I wanted to help her, but I didn't have any idea what I could do. I mean, if the doctors and nurses couldn't help her, what could someone like me do?
"I didn't know what else to do, so I just baked her some brownies one night after work. The next day I brought them in. I walked carefully to her cage and said, 'Annie I baked these brownies just for you. I'll put them right here on the floor and you can come and get them if you want.' Then I got out of there just as fast as I could because I was afraid she might throw them at me. But she didn't. She actually took the brownies and ate them.
"After that, she was just a little bit nicer to me when I was around. And sometimes I'd talk to her. Once, I even got her laughing. One of the nurses noticed this and she told the doctor. They asked me if I'd help them with Annie. I said I would if I could. So that's how it came about that every time they wanted to see Annie or examine her, I went into the cage first and explained and calmed her down and held her hand. Which is how they discovered that Annie was almost blind."
After they'd been working with her for about a year - and it was tough sledding with Annie - the Perkins institute for the Blind opened its doors. They were able to help her and she went on to study and became a teacher herself.
Annie came back to the Tewksbury Institute to visit, and to see what she could do to help out. At first, the Director didn't say anything and then he thought about a letter he'd just received. A man had written to him about his daughter. She was absolutely unruly - almost like an animal.
He'd been told she was blind and deaf as well as 'deranged' He was at his wit's end, but he didn't want to put her in an asylum. So he wrote here to ask if we knew of anyone-any teacher-who would come to his house and work with his daughter.
And that is how Annie Sullivan became the lifelong companion of Helen Keller.
When Helen Keller received the Nobel Prize, she was asked who had the greatest impact on her life and she said, "Annie Sullivan."
But Annie said, "No Helen. The woman who had the greatest influence on both our lives was a floor maid at the Tewksbury Institute."
It is the accumulation of lots of loving little things that really count when it comes to making a life that truly impacts the world we live in. Too often in Christian circles, we are encouraged to create a ministry to do something great. We are often encouraged to make a name for ourselves or help some “great” minister make a name for him or herself. But if we are so busy in “ministry” that we forget the value of giving a cold cup of water to a little one, then we’ve really missed it, haven’t we?
Real agape love is far more often about nickels, dimes, quarters . . . and brownies and hugs than it is about doing something the world (whether it be the secular or church world), calls great. A hug to the right person at the right time may prove to be more valuable in the kingdom of God than building a church or becoming a pastor or governor, or a sports or movie star.
“The greatest among you will be your servant. For whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matt. 23:11,
In all honesty, between being Helen Keller, Ann Sullivan or the maid without a name, which one would you rather be? I have to confess, there still remains a part of me that prefers a recognizable name to being a maid without a name. This means there is still a part of me that is earthy, that is not heavenly-minded. I still have room for growth in my heart. I am not fully following in the footsteps of our Lord.
“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!
“Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Phil 32:3-7)
Father, conform our hearts to the humility found in our Risen Savior. Let us seek the honor from above and not the honor from men and women. Help us to humble ourselves; let us seek your praise rather than the praises from people. Amen. --Gary Amirault