There’s nothing like a thirty hour drive clear your mind and give you time to evaluate recent events. We dropped off three incredible volunteers in Branson, Missouri. Three volunteers we didn’t know only a week before. Three volunteers who did everything we asked of them and were as flexible as humanly possible as circumstances, jobs, and the weather constantly changed.
The way our time in New York ended was nothing short of Divine. We had been all over the New York metro area doing odd jobs and clearing trees. We needed a job to lift our spirits and remind us why we were there in the first place. A contact I made had given us a list of several homes on Staten Island that desperately needed help with fallen trees, but the list had about 40 homes and we only had one day left. We narrowed our focus to about six homes and I began calling them one at a time until we had three solid leads. We worked at two of them in the morning, ate lunch, and then headed to what would be our last job of the trip.
Pablo’s house was the first I called and the last we helped. He walked out of his front door and reluctantly showed us the 130-year-old tree that had been cracked like a twig in his side-yard. The trunk was ten feet high where the tree had fallen and at least eight feet around. This beautiful 60-foot tall tree was made garbage by an indiscriminate storm and it needed to be cleared out of the yard Pablo had owned for nearly 30 years.
We assured him that we would do our best to cut this giant into manageable pieces by the end of the day. Two of our volunteers grabbed tomahawks and began working on the larger branches while the other cleared already separated limbs. Matt and I began using our reliable chainsaws on the hulking trunk. As smoke and sawdust filled the cold, humid air, Pablo continued to bring us homemade cookies, coffee, tea, and offered us his help clearing branches. His generosity far exceeded normal hospitality and bordered on Grace.
In Matthew 25, Jesus tells a story about the Last Days, when He will separate the faithful from the unfaithful. It is here where He says the famous phrase, “whatever you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” Christians have used this phrase to support humanitarian aid projects for years, yet they often miss the heart of this lesson. When we act in a generous or compassionate way to those going through a hard time, we aren’t being Jesus to them. In Christ’s lesson, it is the less fortunate who represent Jesus to us.
Pablo went through a difficult day. His house was spared destruction as the tree missed it by a few feet. He needed help he couldn’t afford. We were there to assist him and he blessed us as much as we could have hoped to bless him. That’s the way this works–as much as you give away, you are met with more. What we learned in New York is the same thing we learn on every trip we take: there’s no greater surprise than the way helping someone else can bless your life.