By Rev. Everette Chapman
As Thanksgiving nears each year, I often recall a story told by Dr. R. L. Middleton, a minister and motivational speaker of a former generation. In one of his books, he tells of a friend of his named Clarence Powell.
Early in their marriage, Mr. Powell and his wife had three children, but little else. As a construction worker, he earned good money when he was able to work, but he had not been able to find jobs for some time. With little income, making ends meet was a colossal stretch and even keeping food on the table for the family was hard to do.
During one of the direst of times for them, his wife informed him that all three children needed new shoes. Playing outside and wearing the only pair of shoes each of them owned to school each day, they had simply worn out their shoes. At the same time Clarence Powell was racking his brain to find money for new shoes, his wife shared that their old washing machine had broken down and appeared beyond repair.
He immediately started searching the want ads for a used washing machine and, fortunately, found one listed. He called the family selling the machine, got an appointment, and drove to the address. Let’s let Mr. Powell tell the rest.
“When I got to the address,” he said, “I hesitated to go in. The house was so large and imposing that a little resentment boiled up in me. When I did walk into the kitchen, I stopped and stood in astonishment at how beautiful everything was. There was a built-in dishwasher, a freezer, a new stove and refrigerator, and every small appliance imaginable. In a little room off the kitchen sat a brand new washer and dryer. I stood there thinking how happy my wife would be if she had a home like this and wondering why some people had all the luck anyway.”
“The man and his wife offered to sell me their old washing machine for just a few dollars, and my gratitude just bubbled out. I even told them about the children’s shoes – how they had worn them out playing in the street, skipping rope, and pushing a scooter, and what a tough time I was having making ends meet. I said to them, ‘It must be nice to have everything. You must be very happy.”
“Suddenly I was aware that the wife had turned a little pale. She looked at her husband with a pained expression and ran from the room, as a sob escaped her. I asked her husband if I had said something wrong, and for a few minutes he didn’t answer. Then he cleared his throat and said, ‘No, you didn’t say anything wrong. You were just saying that your children’s shoes were worn out from running and playing. We have only one child, a little girl. She was born with severe physical deformities and has never walked a step in her life. A pair of her shoes worn out from running or skipping rope would make us happier than you could imagine.’”
Clarence Powell continued, “I went back home and went to my knees to thank God for two little boys who could ride a scooter and a little girl who could jump rope. I thanked Him for worn-out shoes.”
I recently saw a message flashing on a church’s marquee: “Count your blessings, not your problems.” Not a bad idea, that! The first activity is uplifting; the second is defeating. It is our choice to make. Shalom. EC