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The Servant


This is more of a tribute than an article, but I believe it contains a powerful lesson (by example) for all of us as well.

The tribute is to Cherry. This is the sort of thing that I would be likely to say at her funeral if I were still around then myself. But funerals are a bit late when it comes to expressing appreciation for someone's really great qualities, and so here I go now... while we are both still very much alive.

I'm not sure just how or when it happened, but while Cherry was still in her teens, she became convinced that the essence of Christianity is a willingness to be a servant. And that conviction has persisted throughout her life. Obviously, things like preaching and teaching can be forms of service to God too, but Cherry's specialty has always been in the little humble acts of practical service, from preparing cups of tea or coffee for visitors to sending people postcards and birthday greetings.

Cherry was no slouch at school, and so she could have easily been successful in any career. She and I attended the same high school, and while I was a reporter for the student newspaper, she was the editor. While I was happy to come third in my class academically, she came second. She and I did some tertiary courses together (majoring in communication), but on the whole, she still preferred to lose herself in humble service.

Rheumatoid arthritis struck when she was only 23, but she determined not to let it slow her down in doing good for everyone she could. When I or others would feel we deserved a rest, Cherry would still be volunteering for jobs, cleaning up after people, and tending to the slightest needs of those around her. One of my strongest hesitations in writing this tribute is that Cherry has always had a tendency to interpret any reference to Christian service (hers or anyone else's) as further evidence that she should be doing more. Several times, as a community, we have had to literally issue decrees that she should cease from menial chores for a period of time, so that she could get the rest that she needed.

Even as the crippling effects of arthritis have continued to wear away at her, she has persisted in volunteering to nurse the sick, care for small children, cook meals, and scrub clothes. There are few members of our community (most of them half her age) who can keep up with Cherry's pace.

Sometimes the pain catches up with her so totally that she is unable to even find a comfortable position on the bed. She then laments having "overdone" it, but as soon as the pain eases, she is up and at it, back working, and looking for ways to serve others... even complete strangers.

The lesson to be learned from Cherry is obvious. We all need to learn to be more sensitive to the needs of others and unselfish enough to follow through with practical actions, even if it means missing out on free time, rest, or some academic pursuit. Far too often, before we even recognise that there is a need, Cherry has already set about filling it.

As a naturally lazy person myself, I am inclined to take more notice of the times when Cherry has pushed herself too far, or when her assistance did not solve the problem (probably as excuses for my own laziness). But the truth is that these have only been rare exceptions in a life that has been lived in faithful service to God and others.

Maybe one day she'll tire out enough to be content to share the couch with me. But in the meantime, I can see so much to admire in the well-lived life of this "good and faithful servant" who should have very little to be ashamed of when she stands before her Lord and Master on judgment day.
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