Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

Sunday Morning Meds: Leaves


". . .whose leaf does not wither. . ."  Psalm 1:3

In 1875, a 30-year-old single woman named Mary C. Collins accepted an appointment as a missionary/teacher on the Great Sioux Reservation, at a place the Lakota had called “Ti Tanka Ohe,” on the east bank of the Missouri River.  She was going to bring the gospel to heathens, and was, I’m sure, blessedly assured of her mission.  She was, without a doubt, doing good.  Her fruit was abundant.

Not long after, totally unprepared, she found herself alone, on horseback, in the thick of a fierce prairie blizzard that slashed through what little warmth protected her.  She had no choice in her blindness except fear the worst, until suddenly a Lakota man “jumped out,” she says, “and put me into his wagon, carried me to the school house, rubbed my frozen ears with snow, and built a fire for me.”  This man, Bears Ear, saved Miss Collins’ life.
 
In her journals, she explains her enthusiasm for teaching her students and preaching the gospel of love, but the selflessness of her rescuer astounded her one very stormy night because even though Bears Ear was not a Christian, she says “he cared for me most tenderly.”  That night, the idealistic young teacher, consecrated to enlighten those heathen native people, became a student who learned an eternal lesson about love.

That Mary C. Collins was capable of growing, of learning, of seeing the world in a different way through the patient attendance of Bears Ear is a mark of her character, of the kind of person she was.

King David knows phoniness.  He has to.  What other reason could he have for listing both abundant fruit and healthy leaves among the characteristics of those who are truly blessed?  He suggests, I think, that our being blessed is abundantly portrayed not only by what we give away—our fruit—but also by what we are—our leaves.

No one should underestimate the importance of doing good, of our fruits.  Faith without works is dead, says James the Apostle.  But the psalmist insists that yet another mark of those planted trees so truly blessed, so truly joyful, is great leaves. 

When the sideways snow stopped snake dancing across the prairie, Mary Collins was wiser than she’d been when the wind began to blow.  Love had sent her to Ti Tanka Ohe, to minister to all those pagans, to do good; but when, in a blizzard, one of the them ministered to her, it is a mark of her character that she could see the world in a different way—and testify to it.
 
Character is calculated by what we do only when those actions flow from what we are.  Doing good, sad to say, is sometimes easier than being good.  Our blessedness is abundantly manifest not only in what we do, the poet suggests, but also, more greatly, in what we are. 
___________________
The photo is from the Edward C. Curtis Collection
               
            

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