— By JOHN PAUL CARTER
Autumn finally arrived last Sunday, both on the calendar and in the air. As I prepared to enter our worship service, my friend Bill handed me a bulletin and teased me about still wearing my straw hat when it was time to wear felt. (For some reason, unknown to me, both my wife and friends sometimes express concern about my attire.)
So this week, even though the temperature is still above average, I’ve exchanged my straw hats for my four felt hats – all Stetsons. They vary in age and condition but they’re all extremely comfortable to wear. That seven and three-eights long oval just fits my head!
But, I’m partial to Stetson hats for another reason. I love the picture inside the crown of the hat. In the top of each Stetson hat is a full color picture of a cowboy and his horse in the middle of the desert. The wrangler is sitting bareheaded with his empty canteen at his feet. He has filled his hat with water and is giving his thirsty mount a drink. I never put on my hat that I don’t notice that picture.
While the image may remind some of a “10-gallon hat” sturdy enough to hold water, it reminds me of much more. It’s a striking picture of a man who has not forgotten how much he owes to the horse that has carried him on his journey. To take care of the one who has taken care of you is the cowboy way!
It’s also the Biblical way – expressed in the language of the threshing floor: “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain” (Deuteronomy 25:4). In the New Testament, Paul applies the Old Testament teaching to the church’s responsibility to take care of its ministers (I Corinthians 9:9, I Timothy 5:18).
However, this principle of taking care of the ones who have taken care of us goes far beyond horses, oxen and ministers. It also applies to families. In our own family, my wife, her sister, and brother have recently become caretakers of their 94-year-old mother. In our first years, our parents loved and nurtured us; in their last years, we’re sometimes given the opportunity to return that gift of love and care.
What about all those people who serve us each day, the cooks, waitresses, cashiers, clerks, janitors and trash collectors? And don’t forget the teachers, secretaries, nurses, policemen, firemen, truck drivers, our military, postal workers and countless others.
It’s so easy to live under the illusion that we are self-made and to take the people we depend on for granted. Where would any of us be if it weren’t for those who take care of our many daily needs? The picture in the hat not only prompts our gratitude, but also asks: Are we sacrificially taking care of those who take care of us?
“Lord, don’t ever let us forget those who have carried us to this point in our journey. Give us a heart that’s bigger than the hat we wear, and the generosity of the cowboy inside. Amen.”
John Paul Carter’s “Notes From the Journey” is a regular feature of Viewpoints.