Back Yard Behaviors
Three houses sat in a triangle of land bordered by three roads. Their backyards joined each other, and with no fences between the yards, the wide-open space was the place where everyone shared the day’s events, played on swing sets, worked on bikes and cars together, or crowded around a picnic table for an icy summer watermelon. Frequently, cookouts at one house became dinner for all.
When summer’s heat was blown away by chilly autumn breezes, the neighbor families gathered indoors instead of the backyard. Two of the dads traveled on their jobs and another dad had died as a young man, so it was moms and kids most evenings. The youngest child in the group was a chubby, brown-eyed cherub, and though younger than the rest, he knew he had his place at the table. Little Timmy carried books from the bookcase to his chair and stacked them in “his place” when he didn’t have a high chair. Before bowls of soup or mashed potatoes made it to the table, he sat waiting impatiently for dinner, ready to eat.
Only one family were Christians, but they always prayed before eating. Respectfully, all at the table bowed in prayer with the Christian family for every meal they shared. This scene was repeated through the winter. Late in the winter, Timmy seated himself as usual, but dropped his head and began muttering incomprehensible syllables followed by his pronouncement of a loud “amen”. The clattering of dishes and chattering of kids stopped as all watched Timmy. What Timmy said that night didn’t matter. It was clear that Timmy had been watching, and he followed the example that he’d seen so many nights that winter. Timmy became the example.
During dinner, Timmy’s mom said that one evening when her husband was home, they were sitting down to eat when Timmy dropped his head and muttered his prayer. His dad, who was anything but a praying man, stopped eating in astonishment to watch his son pray. Pat said after that, they waited for Timmy to pray every night. Not a person at that table told Timmy that it was important to give thanks for his food. He simply followed the example he’d seen. For sure, no one would have ever guessed that Timmy’s example of praying over his food would touch his father either.
What a powerful and humbling example of how the simplest things in our lives affect others. In Philippians 3:17, Paul tells us to “….join in following my example, and note those who walk, as you have us for a pattern.” Clearly, Paul is instructing us to follow his example and follow other Christ-like examples. We will never know who’s watching and who we reach by our example. But what we can do is make sure that what we do is the example that others should follow.