As love pours out in service, God pours in And, lo, to us comes spaciousness of soul.
Hugh Anthony Allen.
An old world legend tells of a powerful giant whose motto was "I serve the strongest." At first he served the mayor of his town, until he discovered that the mayor was under a duke who was far more powerful than he. Thereupon he left the mayor to serve the duke, until he found that the latter had to obey one greater than any duke, the emperor. Then he transferred his allegiance to the emperor, whom he served until one day he heard him say that he was afraid of the devil.
"What! you afraid of the devil!" cried the giant. "Is the emperor afraid of anything? Is there anyone stronger than the emperor? If so, I will serve him."
Leaving the emperor, he hunted for the devil, whom he found and served. But he soon learned that the devil was afraid of some one more powerful than himself, - the Christ.
For a long time he sought the Christ. One day, while still seeking, in a deep wood he met an old man who told him to serve his fellow-men, and that in this way he would serve the strongest power there was.
Following the old man's advice, the giant began to ferry people across a river that flowed close by the cabin in which he lived. This river was very treacherous, and in its dangerous waters many people had lost their lives.
One stormy night the giant heard a rap on his cabin door. Opening it he found a little girl, who wanted to get across the river. The giant told her it was the time of the Spring floods, and that if he attempted to cross his boat would be swamped and she would be killed by the sharp floating ice with which the river was almost covered. But the child insisted she must get across that night, and that if he would not row her to the other side she must go alone.
The giant lighted his lantern and together he and the child got into his boat and pushed out into the swirling waters. The wind soon blew out the lantern, and they were in utter darkness, in the midst of the swollen, ice-blocked current. Exerting his superhuman strength the giant succeeded in getting the boat across the river, but he was so exhausted when they landed that he sank on the sand unconscious. When he came to himself the child had disappeared, but a man stood bending over him, a man whose face bore the image of the child, and in which was a light never seen in any mortal face- And the man spoke, and said to the giant that, inasmuch as he had done great service to the humblest, he had also done it to his Master - the Christ.
Very similar to this old legend is Tolstoy's beautiful story of the peasant who longed to see the Christ.
A devout Russian peasant, according to the story, had prayed for years that the Master might sometime visit his humble home. One night he dreamed that the Master would come to him the next day. And so real seemed his dream that when the peasant awoke in the morning he arose and immediately went to work putting his cabin to rights and preparing for the expected heavenly guest.
A violent storm of sleet and snow raged during the day, but the man performed his usual household tasks, and while preparing his pot of cabbage soup, the Russian peasant's daily dish, he would look out into the storm with expectant eyes.
Presently he saw a poor peddler, with a pack on his back, struggling forward against the fierce icy blasts that almost overwhelmed him. The kind-hearted peasant rushed out and brought the wayfarer into his cabin. He dried his clothing, shared his cabbage soup with him, and started him on his way again warmed and comforted.
Looking out again he saw another traveler, an old woman, trying feebly to hold on her way against the blinding storm. Her also he took into his cabin, warmed and fed her, wrapped his own coat about her, and, strengthened and encouraged, sent her rejoicing on her way.
Darkness began to fall, but still no sign of the Master. Hoping against hope the man once more went to his cabin door, and looking out into the night he saw a little child, who was utterly unable to make its way against the blinding sleet and snow. Going out he took the half-frozen child in his arms, brought it into the cabin, warmed and fed it, and soon the little wayfarer fell asleep before the fire.
Bitterly disappointed at the Master's non-appearance, the peasant sat gazing into the fire, and as he gazed he fell asleep. Suddenly the room was radiant with a light that did not come from the fire, and there stood the Master, white-robed, and serene, looking upon him with a smile. "Ah, Master, I have waited and watched all this long day, but thou did'st not come." The Master replied, "Three times have I visited thy cabin to-day. The poor peddler whom thou rescued, warmed and fed, that was I; the poor woman to whom thou gavest thy coat, that was I; and this little child whom thou hast saved from the tempest, that is I. Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me."
Someone says, "The greatest thing a man can do for his heavenly Father is to be kind to some of his other children." Whenever we do a kindness to another we are literally obeying Christ's command to his disciples: "A new commandment give I unto you, that ye love one another; as I have loved you love ye also one another." In love and service to one another lies the salvation of the world.
"I serve the strongest," would make a splendid life motto. For to serve the strongest is to serve God, which consists in helping the weakest, - all those who need our help.
Many of us do not realize the great value and importance of even the most trifling service unselfishly rendered a fellow being. We do not realize that the habit of kindness, of unselfishly serving another whenever we can, will not only benefit those we serve, but it will help ourselves even more. It will make our own lives richer, fuller, stronger, than the lives of the self-centered ever can be.