Philippians 2:4 (NIV)
Not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
The dirty gray clouds hung so low it seemed you could reach up and touch them. It was spitting a few flakes of snow and the temperature was in the 20s.
The winter of 1940 was cold in the mountains. It was a bone chilling, face freezing, penetrating kind of cold.
Lilly was going about her morning chores in the warmth of her home, when she heard a knock on the door. Opening it, there stood Mr. Gibson, her neighbor.
"Come in out of the cold." She opened the door wide for him. "Is everything ok? How is your wife?" Lilly asked. Mrs. Gibson had cancer and was confined to her bed most of the time. "She is about the same. I have come to ask a favor. We are almost out of wood for the stove and wondered if you had some to spare until we get our welfare check?"
Lilly didn't know how to respond. Her wood supply was pretty low and her husband was gone for the week at a job sixty miles away. Thinking about the severe cold, she wondered if she would have enough wood for herself.
She told Mr. Gibson she would see what she could do and be back in touch. Her sister lived a couple of blocks away and she would find out if she had any coal or wood to spare. Lilly bundled up warmly and made the trek to her sister's house. Sitting in the kitchen with a hot cup of coffee, the sisters talked about what to do for the Gibsons. June told Lilly she had very little extra wood to burn as the weather had turned so cold, the stove seemed to eat it like tissue paper.
They didn't have enough money to buy wood for the Gibsons but Lilly had an idea. The railroad tracks were not far away. Train cars loaded with coal sometimes spilled coal on the tracks. Maybe they could take a sack and borrow a wagon from one of June's sons and pick up some coal. It was a plan.
They put on all the clothes and scarves they could find and got the wagon and a tow sack before going out in the bitter cold. They walked down the tracks and put whatever coal they found into the sack. The icy wind brought tears to their eyes, which froze on their faces. When they reached the unloading depot, a man was on top of a box car of coal. He would shovel the coal down a chute to a waiting truck.
The man greeted the ladies and remarked what a cold day it was. He asked why they were out in the frigid weather. They told him they were picking up coal to burn.
The man lifted his large coal filled shovel and then turned the shovel sideways pouring the coal on the ground. Twice more he spilled his shovel of coal on the ground. He told them he was clumsy and the coal he couldn't get in the chute was just left on the ground to go to waste.
Next he climbed down the ladder and muttered he needed a cup of coffee and would be back soon.
The women had just finished filling the sack when he returned with two cups of hot coffee for them. They took the coffee and thanked him profusely.
Lilly asked his first name, explaining she wanted to mention it in her prayers tonight.
The man smiled. "Do you think the Lord will bless me for spilling my employer's coal on the ground?"
June spoke up. "He will bless you for your act of kindness. He will bless you for keeping two elderly people warm during this cold spell. Not only will this coal warm their bodies, but it will also warm their hearts. Yes, you will be blessed."
Thanking him again, they left.
Somehow the trip home didn't seem as far. They took turns pulling the wagon now heavy with coal, but their hearts were much lighter.
Upon reaching the Gibson home, the four friends held hands while they thanked God for the total stranger whose act of kindness had helped them accomplish their mission.
The Gibsons had enough coal to last until the weather broke and their check arrived.
Dear Lord, help us be willing to help someone in need. Open our eyes so that we can see how we can meet the needs of others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.