Chapter 23

Real Life Bible Lessons

The Bible is given to man much like an owner's manual when one buys a new car or major appliance. It describes the best way to live and service our lives. If you follow its instructions and suggestions closely, you will live a rich, happy, long earthly life. However, man has a poor track record in learning the truth of God's teachings by simply reading them. Man believes he knows a better way:

There is a way which seemeth right unto a man; but the end thereof are the ways of death. (Proverbs 14:12)

For example, consider the following simple verse:

It is more blessed to give than to receive.     (Acts 20:35)

Most people cannot simply read this and find it to be true. Get, get, get is obviously a better approach! Try teaching this verse to a young child on Christmas day! Consequently, man is condemned to learning through experience, which is sometimes called the "hard way" or the "school of hard knocks." Sometimes we run out of time before learning many lessons. As old people, we can read Bible verses and say, "That is so true." When we read the same verses in our youth we might have thought, "That will be different for me, I'm too smart." Although we call the lessons "hard," some are actually pleasurable.

I happened to be at my Uncle Dave's house one Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas when I was ten years old. Uncle Dave and Aunt Lucille were attending a Christmas party that night and I was to be taken home before the party.

The telephone rang and that phone conversation set the tone for the evening. Uncle Dave slammed the phone down and started cursing. It seemed that the Christmas food packages given to the needy by a charitable association to which he belonged were to be delivered that night. One delivery volunteer had an emergency and Uncle Dave would have to make one of the deliveries. It could not be put off because the perishable items had been purchased and added to the boxes: turkeys, hams, rolls, margarine, etc. Everything was prepared, all he had to do was deliver it.

With having to take me home they were already on a tight schedule and this made it worse! The goods were delivered and transferred to Dave's car by the head of the food committee with Uncle Dave lambasted him the entire time. Aunt Lucille suggested around 4 PM that Dave and I go deliver the food, then he could take me home and return, at which time Lucille would be dressed for the party.

We sped over to a part of New Orleans which I had never seen before and located a dingy high rise apartment building with laundry hung out to dry from the windows. The elevator did not work so we carried as many cardboard boxes as possible up four flights of narrow, dark, smelly stairs. After knocking for an eternity, a bald, skinny old man, dressed in shorts and undershirt with a stomach like a watermelon, opened the door and asked what we wanted.

He refused to accept the food, claiming he knew someone who needed it more. He informed us he was dying from stomach cancer as he raised his undershirt. It appeared that he had swallowed a basketball. His stomach had been operated on so many times there seemed to be no place where there were not scars or suture marks. He wanted the food delivered to his daughter. She had four small children and he thought her husband was in prison again. The husband was a drug addict who revolved in and out of jail and prison. Every year or so when he was out he impregnated his wife shortly before his next bust, leaving her alone with the kids until his next release.

Dave suggested that we leave the food with him for her, since we were in quite a hurry. Not only would that not work, he insisted that we not even mention his name or she would not accept the food. He explained she would no longer talk to him even though he was dying. He gave us her last known address and we headed over, with Uncle Dave complaining all the way. It was only a few miles. If we could not locate her we planned to return and insist that the old man take the food.

Compared to the dump where she and the kids lived her dad's place looked like middle class. She also took her time answering the door, being afraid we were bill collectors. A skinny, unkept woman in her mid twenties opened the door, holding a baby in her arms. The youngest toddler, a little girl, clung to her dress, while two little boys dressed in underwear and t-shirts were close by her other side. Dave informed her about his club and why we were there. He lied and told her one of the members heard about her plight and submitted her name. She gladly accepted the boxes.

We carried the boxes in our arms into the drab apartment which contained a few sticks of furniture. In one corner was a salvaged three-foot artificial Christmas tree with nothing under it. When we returned with the second load of food the mother had taken out bags of potato chips and other packaged "goodies" and placed them under the tree. The children circled the tree, asking which "present" was theirs. After Dave asked the childrens names and ages, we departed.

Uncle Dave did not speed on the way to my house and was perfectly quiet. I felt great, and wondered if he felt the same since he had stopped complaining. After a long, awkward silence, I could not resist admitting, "That seemed to go pretty well."

His only reply was, "Yeah."

It finally hit me, and to this day I have no doubt that during the few days remaining before Christmas, Dave went out and bought those children some real presents with their names on them. That was the only reason he needed their names and ages! I do not remember many Christmas seasons, but to this day I remember that one.

We generally expect our teachers to be adults. However, sometimes a child teaches us adults. Such an event occurred in the Houston area.

There is a wonderful organization called the "Make a Wish Foundation." Their very existence supports the verse, "It is more blessed to give than to receive." These people locate terminally ill children and allow them to wish for one thing they would like to have or do, then they attempt to make the "wish" come true. These wishes have included trips to Disney World, trips to the 2002 Winter Olympics, meeting favorite actors and sport stars, meeting the President of the United States, etc.

However, they were somewhat startled by a young boy's wish in the Houston area. This young lad who was dying from cancer, wanted to be driven around his neighborhood in an ice cream truck while he handed out free ice cream to all of his friends and neighborhood children. I can imagine them explaining the process to him again. Are you sure you understand? You can wish for anything you desire to have or do.

He may have given it some more thought, but he reached the same conclusion. If he had only one wish, and he could wish for anything in the world, it would be to hand out free ice cream to other children from the back of an ice cream truck!

It made the local TV news one night as they showed this terminally ill, bald little boy with a big smile on his face handing out free ice cream to other children from the back of an ice cream truck. A little boy much wiser than his years allowed!

Certainly, some adults watching the news that night learned that:

It is more blessed to give than to receive.   (Acts 20:35)

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