Posted on May 17, 2023

Sweet Tea - Gebo's

Throughout my travels, I have seen many places, and far-off lands.  I’ve sat in the mountains of Alaska and Afghanistan.  I’ve relaxed on the beaches of Okinawa and Diego Garcia.  I have been to eight countries and 24 states, and seen more than many can fathom and far less than this world has to offer.  But there is one lesson that has stuck with me through all of it.

I met an old man who was living on the streets.  His clothes were dirty and torn.  His shelter was a ramshackle collection of cardboard boxes, tarps, and donated blankets.  He had two prized possessions: one was a small propane camp stove and cast iron pot that he had received from a local Church of Christ; he told me he was only able to keep it going through donations and hand-outs people would give him.  The other was a well-read Bible.  By all accounts, the man was destitute.  He had nothing in this world to ease his suffering.  Of course, you wouldn’t know this by his demeanor.  He was always quick with a smile and to greet you with a “Good Morning!” I had witnessed him on several occasions sharing what he did have with others. 

I came to learn that there was a time that this was not his life.  He had a home, a wife, and children.  He worked for a distinguished engineering firm in the city and could afford the finer things in life.  However, a series of poor personal and financial decisions led him to his current situation.  He had lost everything.  In all of this, however, he was always smiling.  He never blamed anyone or anything, apart from himself, for the direction his life had taken.  And he was always praising God.

I sat with him one day while he was preparing his meager lunch, and I asked, “How can you be so cheerful? With everything that has gone wrong in your life, you have every right to be miserable.” He looked at me with that typical grin and, without a word, continued preparing what wouldn’t even pass as a snack for most of us.  On his camp stove, he had his small pot with some boiling water.  Reaching into a grocery bag, he removed a single carrot and an egg, and placed both into the water.  Silently, we sat for about 10 minutes when he removed the food and replaced it with a tea bag.  Again, silently we sat, and I watched as the water turned from clear to a murky brown.

“Now do you see?” he asked with a grin.  “The same water that hardened the egg and softened the carrot was forever changed by the teabag.  It can never be water again.  In life, you have three options. You can allow the world to harden you; make you callous, unfeeling, and miserable.  It can soften you to mush; make you weak, a victim, and crying ‘woe is me’.  Or you can choose to change the world.  You can actively work to make the world a different place.  A better place.”

There are at least 30 parables recorded in the Gospels.  This definitely is not one of them, but I think it accomplishes the same goal.  Live your life in a way that changes the world for the better.  Don’t become hardened to the world and to the lives of others.  Don’t become so soft that you only see yourself as a victim.  Go into the world and make it a better place for everyone.  And don’t forget to sweeten it up because sweet tea is always better.

By: Jared Wise

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