“Here the saying is true, ‘One person plants, and another harvests.’ I sent you to harvest a crop that you did not work on. Others did the work, and you get to finish up their work.” Many of the Samaritans in that town believed in Jesus because of what the woman said: “He told me everything I ever did.” (John 4:37-39)
Bill Gaither wanted a piece of land to build a house in Alexandria, Indiana, the town where he had grown up. He noticed a piece south of town where cattle grazed and learned it belonged to a 92-year-old retired banker named Mr. Yule. Mr. Yule owned a lot of land in the area, but he wasn’t planning to sell any of it. Bill and his wife Gloria decided to personally visit him. Bill shares the story in I Almost Missed the Sunset.”
“He looked at us over the top of his bifocals. I introduced myself and told him we were interested in a piece of his land.
“Not selling,” he said pleasantly. “Promised it to a farmer for grazing.” Then he said, “What’d you say your name was?”
“Gaither. Bill Gaither.”
“Hmmm. Any relation to Grover Gaither?”
“Yes, sir. He was my granddad.”
Mr. Yule put down his paper and removed his glasses. “Interesting. Grover Gaither was the best worker I ever had on my farm. Full day’s work for a day’s pay. So honest. What’d you say you wanted?”
I told him again.
“Let me do some thinking on it, then come back and see me.”
I came back within the week, and Mr. Yule sold me the property.
Three decades later I said to my son Benjy, “You’ve had this wonderful place to grow up through nothing that you’ve done, but because of the good name of a great-granddad you never met.”
How did people who came before you prepare the way? Consider more than your biological family.
How are you preparing the way for those who come after you?
My parents grew up in a small farming community in central Illinois. They built relationships because people in the community relied on each other. They trusted each other, watched out for each other, and helped each other. They worked fields side-by-side, lent and borrowed equipment, and lived through trials and tragedies together.
When my parents had been married for 45 years, my sisters and I planned a surprise party. It was a wonderful party. They were thrilled to see so many friends from their decades together. They hadn’t seen some people in years. Others, they lived alongside daily. With each turn, as they looked around the room, they were greeted by another smiling face full of memories.
After the celebration had been going for a couple hours, a friend and I were talking. He and I had been friends since birth, because our parents were friends, as well as our grandparents. The family farms were only a couple miles from each other. We shared weddings, births and funerals. Looking around at the multitude of friends, circles overlapping circles, my friend reflected, “You know the sad thing is, we – our generation – probably will not get to experience this when we’re our parents’ age. We’re too busy to make the depth and extent of friendships they have.”
I’m not saying it’s impossible. In fact, if anyone will have a 45th anniversary celebration with extensive circles of friends, it will be this particular friend, but I completely understand what he was saying. In the hustle and bustle of everyday life, we often skirt around and skim over the importance of long-term relationship-building. Our relationships can use more intention and attention. Our relationships can be bumped up on the scale of priorities.
Who are you investing in, and who are you allowing – even inviting – to invest in you?
It’s not just about who you’ll call in the best and worst times of life. It’s about who you’ll call, drive to, sit with and sacrifice for during daily life.
Consider the people surrounding you.
Are you focused more on short-term benefits or long-term investment?
Are the people by your side going to be by your side in 10, 25, 50 years?
Life changes. People move. Interests change. Transitions are part of every person’s life. But you might see life as so transitory that you’ve become comfortable in the transition instead of investing in the long-term possibilities.
Many people avoid investing money because they’re overwhelmed with the amount they’ll need. They can’t fathom such a sacrifice.
Are you doing the same with relationships?
Investing even the smallest amounts of money will accumulate into a growing investment.
Surely, you have time, energy and resources to invest in growing relationships.
Encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing. 1 Thessalonians 5:11