They all come with some kind of a price and all with a certain amount of disappointment, but still Rodney keeps trying.
He likes to help people. It’s something as deeply born in him as his constantly smiling blue eyes or wit quicker than a summer storm that brews when it comes up a cloud. He helps us all, so much so that there is often little time left to help himself.
But for his family, neighbors and church friends, his help is always appreciated and rarely taken for granted. We know his heart and know the talent with which the Lord has blessed him immensely is his gift of service to his fellow man. He’d never be so bold as to say so, but it’s his calling. The same way another man picks up a stethoscope or another takes up the Bible, Rodney was called to help those in need.
Mostly, the needs are simple, just time-consuming, such as a bale of hay delivered to a neighbor or a brother-in-law, a child picked up from school or someone who just needs a word of advice or encouragement. He has bigger projects, too, though. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen him take a wayward soul in, clothe him, find him a place to live and make sure he had something to eat. Most of the time, he tends to hire them, too. He’s always looking for a good worker on the farm.
And since I can’t count those times, I’d be at a loss to count the times they just couldn’t be helped. Sometimes they disappear into the night. Sometimes they leave with Rodney owing them wages and sometimes they are bold enough just to quit to his face and head up the road.
Still, he keeps trying. I guess that is the most perplexing part of all: He keeps trying. After all the letdowns and disappointments — I’m trying to think of one true success and either there isn’t one or it has just escaped me — he digs his heels in and goes right back to it again.
Here’s why it’s perplexing: Rodney is the cynic of the family, the pessimist. Before winter’s chill has even melted into spring, he is expecting a summer’s drought and worrying about what he’ll do for hay. Before a new calf is born, he is wary over whether it will survive. Before he has his annual physical, he is preparing himself for bad news.
Yet despite all the ones who brought their hard-luck stories to him and he reached out a hand that somehow got bit, he never gives up. He keeps believing in the innate goodness of people. And one day he will find someone to help and it will make a lasting difference in their lives and those around them.
I remember that morning in Sunday school when his eyes teared up — Rodney’s tender heart brings him to tears a lot — and told of the people who wanted to help. Their child was desperately sick, they had nowhere to go and no food to eat.
"Why don’t we put them in the little house down here that the church owns and let’s help them?" he said.
We followed our general in battle. Furniture was given, food donated and heat bought. Someone found him a part-time job. They seemed grateful. It lasted until winter faded and spring was coming.
I called Rodney to tell him I knew of a job for the man.
He sighed. "He’s gone. Long gone."
He sounded resigned. He’s long used to it by now. But he won’t quit helping. When it’s born in you like it is with Rodney, you just keep doing the best you can to help those in need.
And one day, it’s gonna stick good with one of ‘em.
Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of several books, including "There’s A Better Day A-Comin’." Sign up for her newsletter at www.rondarich.com. Her column appears Tuesdays and on gainesvilletimes.com/ronda.