About a week ago, Judah shoveled our neighbor’s walkway. Not because he was asked to and not because he expected payment, but because he could. Because he had time and strength and the wherewithal to notice a simple need.
So he served.
A week later, Judah was sitting co-pilot on a jet plane to Montana.
About three weekends or so ago, while working on a small mantelpiece for the house, Judah asked if he could use the scrap wood that littered the garage and driveway floors to build something.
”Sure,” I said, thinking of my own childhood and the often free reign my own father gave me with his materials and tools, “whatcha gonna make?”
”Not sure,” he said, grabbing a handful of screws. We both got to work on our prospective projects and intersecting worlds of building and shared tools. About an hour later, my mantelpiece was complete. So was Judah’s plane.
Using only the pieces he could find and with never a measurement (because measurements are for sissies!), he built a friggen fantastic plan, and he was ready to paint.
While I was gathering his supplies, our neighbor pulled in, asked Judah what he was building in that friendly neighbor sort of way, then paused at the door. “A plane. Really. You like planes?”
”Did you know I’m a pilot?”
He nodded again.
When I came back with the paint and brush, we waved and said hi, as friendly neighbors tend to do, then both went about our business.
Then, this past weekend, he sent me a text , "I got a flight scheduled on Saturday morning, leaving at 8 or 9. If Judah would like to ride co-pilot I can arrange that." And although I was fully surprised, I wasn't shocked. Because he's the kind of neighbor who helps fix our bikes and who lets me borrow his saw for much longer than a weekend. But still, this was different. And I knew Judah and I had to have another talk.
It would be easy to sit Judah down and say something like, "See son, when you do nice things for others, they will do nice things in return," but I didn't want to. Because not only is it not always true, it's selfish.
Doing nice things for others in hopes of getting something back in return isn't service or choosing to help others - to be kind, it's bartering. And one only barters with people who have something he or she wants.
Like the rich, the popular, and the strong.
Not the orphan, the homeless, or the Poor. Because they have nothing to offer. And that should be the furthest thing from our minds.
Because "Judah, we don't serve and help with hopes of payment and gifts, we serve and help because it is the right thing to do. Because that's how a healthy community lives, each giving what they can, living in humility, and serving whenever and however they can."
"You were able to serve with your time and strength; he with his resources, but both of you served."
He nods again, and I know he has a question, perhaps several, tickling his tongue, "What?" I ask, "What are you thinking?"
"Nothing," he says, but I ain't buy'n.
"What?" I ask again. And his smile stretches across his face, "Do you think he'll let me fly it?"
"Maybe," I say yet secretly hope, "But maybe not," and I shrug. "But don't ask to. If he thinks it's okay, he'll let you."
"I know," he says as we pull into the airport, "I just hope he does."
Then, about an hour later, on the flight back home, I saw Judah grab hold and gently steer the jet from side to side. And my heart leaped. I could imagine his joy, his thrill, and the lesson I hoped he'd be able to carry with him along side this great little memory.
That when we choose to use our gifts and talents and resources to bless and serve the greater community, both big and small, when we choose to live and think outside ourselves, we not only bring joy and beauty to the those fortunate enough to be around us, we bring purpose to the everyday moments that seem so fleeting, so insignificant, so mundane.
Because although we may see them as simple, they're not. Acts of service and kindness never are.
They're the little rungs we hang our simple hopes on.
And they're what keep little boys up at night, building planes out of legos, playing out the time he got to fly a jet airplane, and dreaming of planes he'll fly in the future.