Rev. John Farmer’s ‘Reflections’ column

by John Howard Farmer

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Accepting our richness

Every generation has a responsibility to teach our young about the past. We need to inform them about our history—including failures—and our heritage. Some of our customs are important to preserve.

Plop a kid in your lap and share an oral history with them. If that is not possible compile a scrapbook for them. Or, take the time to write a letter—even if you put it in a safety deposit box for mailing much later. It will serve to inform them of what you found important about your childhood, your own youth. It will also help create an interest in them for the things that made their family unique. Each youngster will arrive at quality life decisions by balancing their perspectives. Where they end up is not as important as teaching them how to make decisions.

Every new generation defines riches differently. Just look at the horse and buggy days. A good horse and a fine carriage were status symbols once. Later a black Ford Model T replaced them. Nowadays, if you own a car and a horse you may be considered wealthy—unless that is, you are paying others to tend to your animal…but that’s another story, right Cap’n T?

Imagine the poverty of humor, wisdom, which our kid’s grandchildren will miss, from the loss of the Peanut comic strip. No more “Ugh, girl germs!” No missed footballs. No more “Did you have a nice summer?” queried from the red roof of a doghouse. A Bible and a collection of the cartoons “Peanuts,” make a good library.

Our Judeo-Christian religious traditions relied heavily, in early times, on oral tradition. One’s ability to tell the story was tantamount to preserving the truth for each new generation. We have a story to tell. Be sure to make Jesus part of the family. This is especially true as it relates us to our churches and their histories.

I recently read a little teaser about a dad teaching a son about being poor. I thought that I would share it with you: “One day a father of a very wealthy family took his son on a trip to the country with the firm purpose of showing his son how poor people can be. They spent a couple of days and nights on the farm of what would be considered a very poor family. On their return from their trip, the father asked his son, “How was the trip?”

“It was great, dad.”

“Did you see how poor people can be?” the father asked.

“Oh yeah,” said the son.

“So what did you learn from the trip?” asked the father.

The son answered, “I saw that we have one dog and they had four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of our garden and they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lanterns in our garden and they have the stars at night. Our patio reaches to the front yard and they have the whole horizon. We have a small piece of land to live on and they have fields that go beyond our sight. We have servants who serve us, but they serve others. We buy our food, but they grow theirs. We have walls around our property to protect us, they have friends to protect them.”

With this the boy’s father was speechless.

Then his son added, “Thanks dad for showing me how poor we are.”

Too many times we forget what we have and concentrate on what we don’t have. What is one person’s worthless object is another’s prize possession. It is all based on one’s perspective.

From a personal observation, I have family members who exclaimed mightily about seeing their first store-bought, decorated birthday cake. In a turn-around conversation I remember hearing one speak of some moms actually making a cake from scratch—no store-bought item for them. Two differing perspectives, eh?

Perspectives. We can’t force our will on others. But, if we expose our youths to what we feel is the best of what we’ve known, at least we can rest easy knowing that we did what we could.

Armed with the knowledge of our past, the adults of tomorrow can define and redefine who and what they are becoming. Their perspective may be different from ours. It neither validates nor negates our values. It is a sign of growth. Introduce them to our God who will lead them down the path of life, long after we’re gone. God’s riches always surpass our own.

The Bible mentions true riches by indicating the existence of false riches. Much of what the world considers riches simply serves as a veil for true poverty. While on earth, the Lord appeared to be the poorest of the poor (Matthew 8:20) all the while being the one who owned all things. The Christ followers at Smyrna appeared to be poor, but the Lord unflinchingly stated that they were in fact rich (Revelation 2:8-9). The opposite was said of those in Laodicea. Although they claimed to be rich, the Bible states the reality: They were poor (Revelation 3:14-17).

This truth is confirmed in Proverbs 13:7 when the Bible says, “One person pretends to be rich but has nothing. Another pretends to be poor but has great wealth.”