They all come with some kind of a price and all with a certain amount of disappointment, but still, Rodney keeps trying.
He likes to help people. It’s something as deeply born in him as his constantly smiling blue eyes or wit, which is quicker than a summer storm that brews when it comes up a cloud. He helps us all, so much so that there often is little time left to help himself.
But for his family, neighbors and church friends, his help always is appreciated and rarely taken for granted. We know his heart. We know that the talent with which the Lord immensely has blessed him is his gift for service to his fellow man. He’d never be so bold as to say so, but it’s his calling. The same way another man picks up a stethoscope or another takes up the Bible. Rodney was called to help those in need. Mostly, the needs are simple but time-consuming, such as a bale of hay delivered to a neighbor or a brother-in-law, a child picked up from school or words of advice or encouragement given to someone who badly needs them.
He has bigger projects, too, though. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen him take a wayward soul in, clothe him, find him a place to live and make sure he had something to eat. Most of the times, he tends to hire them, too. He’s always looking for a good worker on the farm.
And since I can’t count those times, I’d be at a loss to count the times that they just couldn’t be helped. Sometimes, they disappear into the night. Sometimes, they leave with Rodney owing them wages, and sometimes, they are bold enough to just quit to his face and head up the road.
Still, he keeps trying. I guess that is the most perplexing part of all — he keeps trying. After all the letdowns and disappointments — I’m trying to think of one true success, and either there isn’t one or it has just escaped me — he digs in his heels and goes right back to it. Here’s why it’s perplexing: Rodney is the cynic of the family. The pessimist. Before winter’s chill has even melted into spring, he will be expecting a summer drought and worrying about what he’ll do for hay. Before a new calf is born, he will be wary over whether it will survive. Before he has his annual physical, he will prepare himself for bad news.
Yet despite all the ones who brought their hard-luck stories to him, prompting him to reach out a hand that somehow got bit, he never gives up. He keeps believing in the innate goodness of people. He thinks that one day, he will find someone to help and that it will make a lasting difference in their lives and those around them.
I remember one morning in Sunday school when his eyes teared up — Rodney’s tender heart brings him to tears a lot — and told of some people he wanted to help. Their child was desperately sick, they had nowhere to go and no food to eat.
“Why don’t we put them in the little house down here that church owns and let’s help them?” he asked.
We followed our general into battle. Furniture was given, food donated and heat bought. Someone found the father of the family a part-time job. They seemed grateful. It lasted until winter had faded and spring was coming.
I called Rodney to tell him I knew of another job for the man. He sighed.
“He’s gone,” he said. “Long gone.”
He sounded resigned. He’s used to it by now. But he won’t quit helping. When it’s born in you like it is with Rodney, you just keep doing the best you can to help those in need.
And one day, it’s going stick good with one of them.
Rich is the author of “There’s A Better Day A-Comin.’” Go to www.rondarich.com to sign up for her newsletter.