This gives me hope

Published 7:17 pm Friday, April 8, 2022

Months ago, we decided at our church that as we celebrated our 150th anniversary as a congregation, at least one of the special events would be a day of service. This past Saturday was that big day, and what a day it was. The gift it gave to me was hope.

Did all of our able-bodied members who were in town turn out to help? No, I’m afraid they didn’t. But such a good many did. That in itself was a gift of hope that we shared with our community. Little did I know, as the day started, that other signs of hope were just getting started.

People who are mission-minded, and who are inclined to pitch in, have long-since learned that they end up getting back far more than the time or resources they give. Despite the old saying, “No good deed goes unpunished,” real doers understand the ledger.

Serving, giving, helping. Whatever name you want to give it, the one who steps forward and participates always gets back. Satisfaction at having done something good. A sense of faithfulness to God’s calling upon our lives. The knowledge that someone or something is better than it would have been. These are the rewards the servant gets.

Our big project was to freshen up the landscape and hardscape in the courtyard at Franklin High School. Big because it was the most labor-intensive and required the most people. We also had an impressive number who delivered freshly baked brownies to first-responders in the area. Others made bud vases and delivered them to East Pavillion. Still more made or wrote greeting cards for homebound members, college students, those on our church prayer list and others.

All of that gave me hope. It’s one thing to advertise that we are going to do several good things. It’s another to have people actually show up and do them. Over the years, I have learned that this is who Franklin Baptist is.

The high school project is where I worked. There, more than a dozen of our church members were joined by nearly 20 high school students. Some of those students were from Franklin High itself. Others were from Southampton Academy and still others were area kids in the YMCA Leaders program.

Here is the magic. No one had to be talked into working. Principal Travis Felts told me, “I’ve got one kid who said that if we could get a lawnmower to use, he sure would like to cut grass.” Others took turns doing the hard work of digging. For hours, the scene was one of constant motion. Young and old, all seemed to understand what was possible as we began trimming and mowing. That gave me hope.

Then, the truly hard work began. Wheelbarrow loads of mulch had to be transported through the hallways and out into the courtyard. Concrete tables and benches had to be dismantled, leveled and reassembled. Two pressure washers were running the whole time, stripping away years worth of weathering. Students took turns running those, and that’s not easy work. There was much heavy lifting, drawing up of strategy and teamwork involved.

We had at least three generations out there doing manual labor, side by side. Boys, girls, men and women. Over 30 people of seemingly every age were throwing hard work at a need. If a table and benches got reassembled, at least five people would come from every direction dumping shovels of mulch in next.

At one point, I chuckled to someone “Try this in Atlanta with teenagers from down there. This would’ve been a lot harder for most of them. You’d have to show a lot of them which end of a shovel is up.” Not these young people. They were hard workers, and eager to be serving.

When it was all over, everyone looked on the job with deep satisfaction. The difference in how the courtyard looked was dramatic. But here may be the best part. One of the hardest working of the young people said to someone, “My grandfather sure could take a lesson or two in how to communicate with my generation from you all.”

That’s when I knew that the kingdom of God had shown up. It’s nice to do good things. But when you do important things, and relationships are fostered in the mix, that is a day on which God can be proud. It gave me hope.

We’re not nearly done serving our community. But Saturday was a day we’ll remember for a long time.