Thank You, Montague

November 10, 2007
by Jimmy Reed

As always, I started walking when the sun first lightened the horizon. This daily routine provides time to meditate and to recite poetry.

A favourite quotation from Lorraine Hansberry's play, A Raisin In The Sun, came to mind:

    Child, when do you think is the time to love somebody the most; when they done good and made things easy for everybody? Well then, you ain't through learning — because that ain't the time at all. It's when he's at his lowest and can't believe in hisself 'cause the world done whipped him so. When you starts measuring somebody, measure him right, child, measure him right. Make sure you done taken into account what hills and valleys he come through before he got to wherever he is.

The day before, one of my daughters and I had quarrelled bitterly. I'd expended much time, effort, and expense doing something for her, and instead of gratitude, I got hurtful words for not doing more. While I'd "done good and made things easy" for her, she'd ignored the "hills and valleys" I'd come through. Broken-hearted, I plodded on.

Then I heard a familiar greeting. It was the one-legged mockingbird I'd named Montague, who hangs out in the parking lot of the beautiful old Presbyterian Church I pass each morning. When nobody is astir but him and me, Monty alights near the sidewalk and rasps raucously. After bobbing and flapping awkwardly to balance on his spindly leg, he throws back his head, fills his throat, and chirps loud enough to rankle the rooster Chanticleer.

While I felt sorry for myself, the bird, to quote the poet W.B. Yeats, sang louder, "for every tatter in its mortal dress." His cheerful spirit brought to mind this verse:
Matthew 6:26 – Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they? (KJV)

Then I remembered more Scripture:
Galatians 6:9 – And let us not weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. (KJV)

Monty remembered what I'd forgotten: a sure way to feel better is to help someone else feel better. My opportunity was just a short distance from Monty's church.

Often, I'd seen the old gentleman fetching the morning paper. Grasping the step's handrail, he carefully worked his way down to the long walk across his yard. When he reached the paper, he would bend, painfully it seemed, pick it up, straighten slowly, and plod back to his home. Perhaps he lived alone, and perhaps had "done good and made things easy" for loved ones who moved on and left him behind. I thought, "Monty, tomorrow, I'm going to make the old gent feel the way you make me feel."

Putting the newspaper on the man's porch has become part of my dawn routine. One morning, I found a "smiley face" card with two words scrawled inside: "Thank you!"

What the old man said to me, I say to the one-legged bird: "Thank you, Montague."

Prayer: Almighty Father, teach us to overcome our own unhappiness and misfortune by seeking opportunities to brighten the lives of others, to serve them, and thus to serve You. Amen.

About the author:

Jimmy Reed
Oxford, Mississippi, USA

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