In his eulogy for film legend Stan Laurel, Dick Van Dyke told of an exchange that happened between Laurel and the nurse attending him in the final hours of the comedian's life, when death was clearly imminent. "I'd a lot rather be skiing," said Laurel in that wonderful English accent of his. "Oh, Mr, Laurel," she responded, "do you ski?" "No," he said. "But I'd a lot rather be doing that than this."
Sometimes we simply have to do things that we'd rather not do. Death is the most prominent among these, of course.
But there's also a bevy of less dire obligations that we'd a lot rather not be doing, which we must do, nonetheless. Income taxes come to mind. So does enduring winter cold if you live in the North.
What constantly amazes me is the number of good things that people do that, strictly speaking, they don't have to do.
This week has shown a number of examples to me of people committing acts of unnecessary kindness or helpfulness.
There was Paul, one of the volunteer pianists from our congregation, agreeing to leave work early in order to provide music for a rare Friday evening memorial service.
Tim T. came to the building several times over the past few days in order to make certain that the pavement was free of ice and snow and the building was welcoming for the mourners who came to the service.
This morning, Steve and Aaron spent several hours working on all the problems that arose after our fuel oil ran out and forced us to cancel our Sunday worship.
Others prepared Sunday School lessons and Youth Group activities over the course of the past seven days.
None of these people had to do any of these things.
Nor did the countless other members of our church family have to check up on ill neighbors, make contributions to local charities, send food to the local emergency food bank, mail cards to people going through rough times, or pray for people on our prayer list. But they did these things and more.
Each week, as pastor of Friendship Church, I'm privileged to watch people be kind and considerate, not just to one another, but to neighbors, many of whom are strangers they've never met or never will meet. They've taken to heart the words of Archbishop Temple who said that the church is the only organization in the world that exists for non-members!
And so, these wonderful folks inspire me with their good examples of kindness, even when they might "a lot rather" be skiing or something else.
If I were to publicly recognize any of them or even mention my gratitude privately, they would demure. "It was no big deal, Mark," they'd tell me. One woman I thanked once told me, "I didn't do it for you. I did it for my Lord."
She's right, of course. But sometimes in a bad news world, you want to let people in on some good news. You want to provide a field report on a battlefield on which good is prevailing over evil.
My report is this: Jesus, the once-dead, forever-risen Savior, has made and is making a difference in the lives of one amazing group of people.
To all of my Friendship family, I say, "Of course, you're not perfect. But I'm so glad that you've let Jesus live in your lives. I can tell that you have, because every day I see Him in you! I can see Him in the joyous ways you do things that you might not want to do, but that you know are right to do!"