What is the difference between a brick layer and a cathedral builder?
One is simply doing his job, brick and mortar, brick and mortar. Over and over and over. Break for lunch then more of the mundane same. Go home. Tomorrow will be no different. Nor the day after that. And the next day and the next day. Bricks upon bricks upon bricks. At least the weekend will bring a welcome change in pace – football, a beer, and the couch.
But the cathedral builder? Using the very same materials, going through the very same motions, he differs in light years from the fellow slaving next to him because he has in mind the final structure including, but certainly not limited to, bricks and mortar. In fact the cathedral builder can see - even though having only just laid the corner stone and the foundation - the stain glass windows with sunlight streaming through. He envisions standing awestruck one day below an arched and vaulted ceiling, the dome the color of an azure sky, all supported by the walls that he is only just now beginning.
What he can see with his mind determines the way he works with his hands.
There’s a term for it in today’s computer technology. It’s called WYSIWYG: What You See Is What You Get. Once you’re satisfied with the document in front of you on the screen, click the print button and what you see is what you’re gonna get.
It’s true in all of life.
Some see the pastoral setting. Others point out the manure piles.
Some look at those colored dots of the mind-teasing pictures in the shopping mall and exclaim – quite loudly - that they can indeed see the psychedelic unicorn prancing on the ball of planet earth with angels hovering among the stars nearby while I, being colorblind, not only cannot see any pattern at all but seriously doubt that my friend can either.
Some see the problem. Others see the solution.
The latter describes a gal in our community calling on behalf of some friends she’d gathered who were wondering about our town hobo. “Is he a danger? Would he accept a coat?”
Slump-shouldered he walks slowly, sleeps in the brush evidently, and forever wears a tattered – more like shredded – jacket. Some look at him, and I admit I’m one of them, who can see little more than I just described. But this last Sunday morning, when I arrived for church, I paused in the foyer and watched a man I knew I recognized walk slowly by. He sported new coat with the hood up – it was raining after all, again. New pants, new shoes, and a new backpack completed the outfit.
Now maybe there was no communicated pay-it-forward expectation of this guy. Maybe his outerwear will change but not his heart. Maybe, like the shoeless fellow whose $100 boots were purchased by a compassionate policeman and whose story has gone viral along with a follow-up picture showing him wandering Times Square without those boots in which he explains that he could lose his life for wearing them, maybe what we’ve got here in our town is another-day-another-dollar wasted on some undeserving, ungrateful, un-whatever individual who’ll never change – except now for his clothes.
Maybe he won’t be a new man after all.
It’s not like others in our community haven’t tried to help him before – offered showers, clothing, and food.
But maybe it’s not about him. Maybe it’s not so much about changing the recipient as it is about changing us.
“Wherever they found themselves within society – rich, poor, or middle class – and with whatever gifts or talents they had been given, they could and should unite their energies with those of their fellow citizens and follow through on their duty to work toward making the good society. . . .” The Biography of William Wilberforce (1759-1833), Belmonte