The Master Craftsman – Part 3

“Why have we stopped?” asked the apprentice.

“We have a duty to fulfill,” replied the master craftsman. “The family who dwells inside this hut have a sick little girl and I have made her a gift. Please retrieve it from under your seat and accompany me.”

The apprentice did as instructed and followed the old man to the door. A woman whose face was worn with worry welcomed them into the hut where a small girl lay on a sweat-soaked mat. The young man could not take his eyes off of the sick child.

“Is she better?” asked the craftsman in a low tone.

“I am afraid she is not. Her fever is still very high and she seldom wakes to eat.”

Downcast, the old man grunted in a low sympathetic tone. He motioned for his apprentice to hand him the gift. “I have brought her this gift. It is not much, but I hope she is able to enjoy it very soon.”

As he handed it over, the distinctive rattle of coins could be heard. The mother accepted the gift with a gracious bow while a tear rolled over her wrinkled cheek. “Thank you, sir.”

“I pray healing over this house,” said the master craftsman as he guided his apprentice back outside.

They mounted the cart and with a slight prod, the ox pulled them in silence until the boy’s curiosity could restrain him no longer.

“You chose to use the walnut?”

“Yes. I sensed it was right for her and although I used a portion, much remains.”

“May I ask what was inside the box?”

“Of course. It was a hippopotamus I carved for the little girl as I wept and prayed over her.”

“And you gave them money although you have so little?”

“I have all that I need, my friend. These neighbors are in need of food and medicine to care for their daughter and it is our duty to help them.”

“They are kin to you?” asked the boy.

“They are not,” replied the master. “What is kin and what is neighbor? These words are not different, they are the same. The oak tree does not choose the soil in which it is planted nor does it have the luxury to choose the seeds which take root nearby. Yet it must share the rains that nourish and the sun that shines upon it regardless of whether its neighbor is an oak, ash, or maple. So too, we must cooperate with those around us no matter whether they share our name or not. It is our honor and privilege.”

“Yes, master,” said the boy as he pondered this notion.

As the shop came into view and the silent journey reached its end, the apprentice asked hopefully, “Will the little girl recover?”

“I do not know,” replied the master. “These are things outside our control and influence. I can only hope and pray that she does.”

As they unloaded the lumber into the shop, the weight of concern became more of a burden for the boy than the heavy wood. Though he tried to focus on his task, his mind continually fell back on the little girl laying on the mat until he could hold his tongue no longer.

“I wish there was more I could do for the girl,” he cried. “I don’t like feeling so…”

He paused, unable to describe his feeling and wondering if his outburst was welcome.

“How do you feel?” prodded the master gently.

“Helpless,” concluded the boy as the word finally entered him.

“Yes, we are helpless. And I do not like feeling that way, either. There are times when we are called to action and there are times when we can only sit beside and watch things occur. In those times, do not discount the power of hope and prayer. Hope has a way of setting into motion things that we are powerless to influence. And prayer is our way of influencing the one who has the power to move the immovable.”

The apprentice said nothing, but pondered these ideas as he finished his work. Never in his life had he been confronted with sickness such as the little girl’s nor had he experienced the hopeless feelings welling up within him. Though he tried to take his master’s advice, he simply felt a black cloud enveloping him that he could not dismiss. It grew deeper and darker as the day drew to a close.


Click here to go on to part 4.

Click here to start from the beginning.

I know I didn’t have to, But I can

I’ve got this neighbor. He’s a really good guy – incredibly helpful and always willing to lend a hand. And the best thing is that he has access to every tool known to mankind. Chainsaws, blowers, and riding mowers are every day fare. Weekends can be a kind of adventure as I try to identify engine sounds. In the past, there were Saturdays when I was disappointed by a pressure washer, but I’ve got that one down now.

Then there are times… glorious mornings when my man-heart races at the roar of a stump grinder or 12” chipper firing up next door. Such siren purrs start a race for boots and gloves as I rush to answer the call of the motor. If we lived in a neighborhood I would probably have to stand in line behind others entranced by the intoxicating smells of gas, dirt, and shredded wood. But we live off in the woods where there aren’t other suiters. There is, however, plenty of nature yearning to be uprooted.

Last Saturday I heard a familiar hum. Autumn brings the aerator and with its little plugs of dirt littering the lawn. My kids reminisce about the dirt wars we used to have and I enjoy the look of confusion on Winston’s face as he tries to sort out the number of other dogs it took to create that much poop. He always sniffs a few and lays down in the pine straw defeated.

By the time I got outside, my neighbor was already rolling in my yard on the aerator. This thing was awesome – a riding aerator! I had never seen one. The last model I used was like wrestling a bear. By the time I was done my arms were both out of the socket and I slept for three days. Anyway, he cruised up beside me, moved the throttle to idle, and pushed up his hearing protection.

“Thanks,” I said, not wanting to sound too disappointed that I didn’t get a turn. He figured out long ago that it is easier to just do it than to try to explain it to me. I love hard work but seem to be allergic to 2-cycle engines. I usually can’t get them started and if I do get lucky, I can’t keep them running. Most of the time, I flood the engine so badly that I have to wait an hour or so to try again.

“No problem,” he answered. “I got plenty of seed, too.”

“You didn’t have to do that,” I said.

“I know I didn’t have to, but I can.”

Then he put his hearing protection back on and was gone, churning up earth in his wake while I stood considering his words: I know I didn’t have to, but I can.

What would the world be like if more people lived such a generous philosophy?


You didn’t have to buy that cup of coffee.

You didn’t have to sit with me.

You didn’t have to change my flat tire.

You didn’t have to clean up after me.

You didn’t have to make room, I can stay in a hotel.

You didn’t have to stay up all night when I was hurting.

You didn’t have to come visit.

I know I didn’t have to, but I can.


I’m lucky to have a neighbor who has a seemingly infinite supply of lawn equipment paired with that outlook on life. I’m also lucky that he introduced me to his sister-in-law many years ago and stood next to me as we said our vows.

Since Saturday, I’ve wondered what sometimes stands between me and generosity. I don’t hoard money but I do tend to be stingy with my time. I think that is common with most people. In this busy world, it typically isn’t the desire to do good we lack; we just won’t sacrifice the time to act. Time is precious and I’ve found through the actions of others during the grief of the past three years that it is the most lavish component to generosity.

The next time I must choose to be kind or be late, I will try to remember my neighbor’s words… I know I didn’t have to, but I can.