Don’t Judge a Book (or anything) by its Cover

By Marcy Barthelette

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new. Revelation 21:5

Ken found it atop a stump outside the building that housed maintenance vehicles and equipment at the district office he worked out of in central Florida. It was a puny little thing with only two or three leaves remaining, but he brought it home to me anyway. After all, we lived in the sunshine state and I had a pretty impressive green thumb, so why not give it a try?

I took one look and instantly wondered what this typically intelligent husband of mine must have been thinking but then I remembered, with gratefulness, that tender side of him that never wants to give up on anything that demonstrates even a hint of life remaining. He likes to pick through trash to find small appliances that can be refurbished and put back into productivity. And he can’t pass by a discarded mower or trimmer that someone has left at the curb with a “Free” sign attached. He never fails to pick up nuts, bolts, screws, washers, or other pieces of metal from the streets, and his perseverance has saved us in many situations when we needed just the right piece of precious metal that he found tucked away in a jar right where he’d stored it.

He doesn’t give up on people either, especially kids. Just before we moved to Florida, he had spent a year working as a teaching assistant. Many hours were devoted daily to very repetitive work with children who had learning problems. Ken is not trained in special education, but he has a knack for reaching kids who have difficulty learning, many times influenced by environmental challenges. He has the patience to get past the worn clothing, the grimy fingernails, and the attitudes that often accompany a child who isn’t learning properly. He shows them respect and finds inventive methods for stimulating an interest in learning.

I believe that appreciation is a holy thing, that when we look for what’s best in the person we happen

to be within the moment, we’re doing what God does; so in appreciating our neighbor,

we’re participating in something truly sacred. Mr. Rogers

At that same time, there was a young boy in our church who didn’t like to read. His family couldn’t afford special tutoring for him and the school he attended hadn’t been able to spark an interest. He liked Ken and they started reading together for a half-hour or so any Sunday that both were available after church. By the time he graduated high school, that young man had turned some corners educationally and was reading much better. As he matured, he decided to go west and live with his dad and he continued to keep in touch with us. Ken insisted that he pay attention to his spelling, punctuation, and capitalization as he wrote. At first, he was reluctant to care. After all, no one was grading him anymore, but then he realized how much it meant to Ken that he treat even a simple email as correctly as he could. He’s married now, has a wife and child, a good job, and a great life in the wide-open country where he is best suited. It helped that someone took an interest in him as a young child who couldn’t read well enough to get through his educational years without some assistance. We treasure his continued friendship today and always look forward to hearing how his life is developing.

Nothing is impossible; the word itself says “I’m possible!” Audrey Hepburn

And that plant, the scraggly one that Ken brought home to me in the spring of that year in Florida. Well, I planted it in a safe space near the foundation of our home, removed any leaves that didn’t survive, watered it, and watched over it daily. By fall, it was two feet tall and before Christmas, it rewarded my efforts by producing twenty-something big, beautiful poinsettia blooms. They really can grow outdoors in the southern half of Florida if you make sure to cover them on the occasional night when the temperature drops to frost level. You see, you just never know what may become of a plant or a person when you take a risk and demonstrate in very real ways that they are a valued and important part of your life and a key piece in the bigger picture surrounds them.

We really can make a difference to the world around us. It will be risky but remember: Christ is within us.

You will never out-dream God. He will give you resources according to your aspirations. He will lead,

protect, bless, and encourage you. Maybe it starts today.  Bear Grylls, Soul Fuel

Leave a Reply