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Dad and I finished a day of fishing, and we stopped for ice cream. I went to the window and gave our order to the girl as I handed over a twenty dollar bill. She gave me change, and I put it all in her tip jar. I was hoping that she saw me put the money in but she turned around to fill the order. I thought to myself, there goes another good deed unnoticed. She returned and handed me the ice cream. I thanked her, and then she said to me. “No, thank you,” and she pointed to the tip jar. I said, “How did you know?” and she said, “Believe me, I know.” Which goes to show that good deeds are very powerful and visible.

I live in with a fairly large community. When something breaks, like a vacuum cleaner, there are three options. Option One, if it doesn’t work, put it back in the closet and let someone else deal with it. Option Two, post a sign on the vacuum: “Out Of Order.” That way the next person who needs it will know and not have to find out the hard way. Option Three, fix it. The problem with number three is that no one will ever know it was broken, and they will never know you fixed it. Last spring I needed to photocopy some papers for my class. I like to think that photocopy machines have a built-in stress detector. Photocopiers seem to know when you are in a hurry, or you have something very important to copy. They never seem to work at those times. So I put the syllabus in the copier and pushed the green light on the start button, and I hit the jackpot! Every warning light started to flash: No Toner, No Paper, Paper Jams everywhere, see Service Man… immediately. At that moment, I was really tempted to opt for option one, to leave the scene immediately and let someone else deal with the problem. I decided instead for option three, and one by one I resolved each of the problems. I loaded paper in the empty tray, added toner, cleared all the paper jams, and called service and got the reboot code. After I made all the necessary warning lights go out, I finally started to get my copies. Someone came by just at that moment and asked me, “Oh, did you just fix the copier?” Which prompted me to think of two questions: “How did you know it was broken, Mr. Option Number One?! And how did you know I fixed it?” It goes to show you that the good is hard to hide.

The Letter of James talks about doing good. Good talk is not enough. Our lives have to have good deeds for us to imitate God.

Remember the story of the widow that put in two pennies in the treasury. A Roman penny is actually smaller than the diameter of your finger. That means if you hold a Roman penny between your two fingers you will not see it because your fingers will completely cover. It is not like a shiny gold coin that everyone will notice. It is heavy and makes a loud noise when it is dropped in the treasury. The penny is lighter than a potato chip. The window probably is thinking that another good deed will go unnoticed. But someone notices. God notices. This is good news for all of us who have ever done a thankless job such as changing dirty diapers, sitting in traffic after work, standing in a long line at the supermarket. No one thanks you for the thousands of tiny sacrifices you do every day. Yet, God sees every one of them. Option Number One is the easiest of the three. But you will never achieve greatness with Option One, and no one will notice you. Option Number Three will be noticed at least by one person.

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