When my wife was in high school she desperately wanted to take shop, but in those days, it was boys only. Girls had to take home economics which she did. She learned to sew on a treadle (non-electric) sewing machine and now she teaches sewing on the exact same kind of machine on which she learned. She also sews for us and for others, but she needs more light than we can produce inside. So, if it’s sunny, you can find her outside working on her machine with Sissie always nearby. In the picture at the right, she is working on a Christmas present for Charlini. She gave it to the grandmother on Christmas Eve, but we haven’t seen Charlini or heard back, so all we can do is pray that her grandmother did the right thing. Come to think about it, that’s all we can do for most of the people we love and want to help. We provide all the help we can give, but what the recipients do with it is beyond our control. We have been truly blessed here over and over again to see graduates from the teacher’s college, new preschools thriving, new churches growing and active, thousands having clean, safe water to drink, hundreds being able to get water from a nearby pump instead of having to walk miles to get it, pregnant mothers and infants sleeping under mosquito nets we’ve given them. Everything doesn’t work out the way we want as we have been betrayed, had people who promised to distribute mosquito nets and books sell them and put the money in their own pockets, but we don’t stop helping or caring or loving. We learn new ways to do things that while they can’t eliminate bad things happening, we can lessen the probability of it—and we do. It’s not that different here than it is anywhere. I remember a man I admired and respected a lot who raised money for the community theater, ran the United Way fund drives, and served as treasurer of his church, but he embezzled and stole from the church and just about everyone else. I can’t remember being more hurt and disappointed that a man who did so much good could be so selfish and hurtful. It happens. Our job is to listen to Christ and forgive and continue to trust until we know we are throwing pearls before swine. We do have to care, to love, and to give, but we also have the responsibility to make sure the people we want to help are getting the help they need and not lining the pockets of middlemen. Here is where Mother Teresa always reminds me of what to do. This is reported to have been written on the wall of her room:
People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.
If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.
If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.
What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.
If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.
The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.
Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.
It’s what we do. It isn’t pain free, but it is well worth whatever hurt comes our way. As the new year approaches—remember this.