For a better world

I knew a man who had a farm and towards the end of his life we were talking about what he had achieved. ‘I want to leave the place better than I found it,’ he said.

I have often thought of that simple ambition. He had no desire to make excessive money or make a name for himself in the locality. He just wanted to make improvements on the farm before handing it on to the next generation.

Jesus had a story about people with a variety of talents or gifts. They react differently. Two of them – though one more gifted than the other – used their opportunities fully and were rewarded for their efforts. A third fellow panicked and made no effort to use his gifts. He just sat on his hands and did nothing and gained nothing.

As in all Jesus’ stories, the teaching is obvious: use the abilities you have – whatever they are. Easily said, but still true. ‘Unless I am qualified, I cannot do anything!’ Not true. There is always something people can do. Even the most severely wounded can do something. Once, in the Ivory Coast, I met 20-year-old Innocente who lived with severe intellectual and physical disabilities and just lay on a mat on the floor all day. 

But everyone in the house knew, if you wanted cheering-up, all you had to do was sit with Innocente for a while. You would speak a few words to her but she could not say anything. Then she would look at you and a huge smile would come over her and light up her face. People tried to describe the experience and one person called it a ‘window opening briefly into heaven.’

Innocente did not live long – perhaps until she was 25 – but she ‘left the place better than she found it.’ These are two examples – one strong man with a farm and another a young girl with nothing but her heart – but there are so many people who can neither work not smile. They are broken by the poverty that surrounds them every day.

How can you talk about using your talents when people are frustrated by a tsunami of blocked opportunities where ever they turn? A few days ago I met wave after wave of girls walking home from school in their blue and yellow uniforms. They were laughing and joking in the joy of being alive but I could not avoid thinking of their future. How will it be for them?

Yet people are amazingly resourceful. Despite all the obstacles in their path, most people do manage to use their talents as best they can. They leave this place better than they found it. 

19 Nov 2023 Sunday 33A Prov 31:10…31 1 Thes 5:1-6       Mt 25:14-30


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