As we begin a new year, I’m reminded of a phrase that Marcia used at one time or another with all of our kids: It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice!
This came to mind in the past week as I learned of the deaths of two old-timers, one whom I had met only once, and one who was a dear friend.
When I met Casey in the kitchen of a downtown Grand Rapids restaurant, he showed me a stack of lunch receipts…money still owed to him by homeless people from the Heartside area. It made no difference if they didn’t have money; he wouldn’t let them go hungry. They could pay him later. He assured me that sooner or later, they would pay him. And if they didn’t, he just considered it a gift from him to that poor individual. Casey won’t go down as one of the important restaurateurs in Grand Rapids, but it was important to him to be nice!
Doug was a diamond in the rough! He wasn’t sure he could worship in our church because he didn’t have fancy clothes. Upon being assured that he would be accepted, he first visited, then became a regular attender, and eventually made a public profession of his faith. I played the organ for his funeral service just a few days ago. He may not go down in history as perhaps the seemingly most important person to have worshiped at Ferrysburg Community Church, but he’ll certainly be remembered as one of the nicest!
And that leads me to HUMANITY FOR PRISONERS. Among all the prison ministries at work right here in the State of Michigan, HFP will not be seen by many as the most important. There are highly successful programs with large budgets and huge lists of supporters and donors. I’m not knocking them. We thank God for each of these programs! Any project that touches the lives of prisoners ranks high on our popularity list.
No, we may not seem important, but I can assure you that we are nice. The many beautiful holiday notes and messages that came to us on home-made greeting cards, scribbled notes, and herky-jerky misspelled words of thanks via email, were so amazingly affirming! When we extend the cup of cold water to a hurting prisoner, even though it may be only slightly cool or only half-full, we do it in the name of Jesus because he commanded that we be “nice.” Through that simple effort lives are touched, and unnamed individuals who heretofore had only a number, are no longer statistics…they are real people who now have a real friend.
And so we press on in the new year, not at all sure how we’ll find the necessary funds to survive, but still living and operating by Marcia’s words. It certainly could be nice to be important, but for the entire gang at HFP, it’s important to be nice!
Thanks to all who will be at our side in 2015.