Woodshed Wisdom

By Freeman Martin

Our new word for today, class, is RAK. Please pay attention. There will be homework. The word is  pronounced ‘rack,’ as in the waiter’s question to me the other night at the barbecue place. “Sir, would you like a full rack of ribs or a half-rack?” Since I don’t believe in doing anything half-way (another lesson from the woodshed!), and since a full rack of ribs sounds so much better than half a rack, I just smiled. And he got the message!

Back home at Route 4, I also got Daddy’s message, but only after umpteen trips to the woodshed, where he always asked the same question. “Son, when are you going to learn to use your head for something besides a hat rack?” It was only after graduating from the University of the Woodshed that I learned that repetition was his teaching method. I guess that’s why I spent so much time at the ‘shed that I knew how many splinters were on every stick of wood in the whole place!

But a RAK has nothing to do with ribs, although they both bring pleasure and satisfaction. And a RAK has nothing to do with where you hang your clothes, although you’ll hang on to it for a long time after you get one. And a RAK doesn’t cost a penny, although it’s worth more than all the gold in Fort Knox. By the way, do they still keep gold in Fort Knox? I don’t really know, but that’s what farm boys in the 50’s used to think. Since a RAK is so valuable, you probably think it’s OK to collect them, right? Nope, that’s as wrong as ketchup on ice cream! A RAK only becomes valuable when you give it away! So now you’re thinking, enough already. Just what is a RAK? Thank you for asking.

RAK stands for Random Act of Kindness. Can I describe a RAK? Yep, ready or not, here it comes! A Random Act of Kindness has more flavors than Baskin-Robbins. It can be one thing today and tomorrow take a completely different form. Take, for instance, these different kinds of RAK’s. Workin’ down at the soup kitchen helpin’ to feed the hungry. Finding shelter for the homeless on a cold night.

Then, too, a RAK can also be something as small as a warm smile, a firm handshake, a hug, a kind word, or remembering to say thank you. Or maybe slowing down long enough to tell someone ‘you’re lookin’ especially nice today.’ And how ‘bout this one. ‘You’re carryin’ an armload of stuff, let me help you with that.’ That can be a big one. It might not be a real armload of stove wood that your neighbor is totin,’ but you can tell when they’re trying to carry a ten-gallon load in a five-gallon bucket.

Their load might just be so heavy, there’s absolutely no way that they can carry it by themselves.

That’s exactly where I found myself the other day. I had a load I could not carry. Sometimes it’s hard for folks to admit that they need help. But this load was so heavy, I knew without a doubt that I couldn’t handle it by myself. In my case, it was a physical load.

Furniture in the garage that needs to go in the house. Folks, I’m not talking about a what-not or a foot stool. I’m talking solid wood furniture that’s heavy enough to put you in a back brace for life.  If I was still goin’ to be able to walk upright in my remaining years, I had to have some help. I’m not kiddin’. It had to go down the hall. With sharp corners to turn. Watch out for the china cabinet. And try not to scratch the floor or the walls.

Not one, not two, not even three or four pieces, but five pieces of solid wood furniture that would have been a ‘full rack’ for a flat-bed truck! The only way it could have been worse would have been if it had to go upstairs. That would have involved a crane.

So, here I am, Lord, in bad need of a RAK. God must have surely had a smile on His face when Paul came ridin’ down our driveway. Now, if you’ve been to the woodshed with me over twice, you have to know that Paul is in the top two of my favorite Bible guys. So how appropriate was it that my RAK came from Paul. No, it didn’t come from the Apostle Paul ridin’ his donkey on the road to Damascus. But watch this now, stay with me. My RAK came from my new friend, Paul Hammond, who came ridin’ up with his wife Angie. By the way, there was more than one-donkey horsepower in Paul’s good-lookin’ pickup truck. Shoot! I forgot to ask if that thing had a hemi. Doesn’t matter anyway.

Now I had never met Paul. So this RAK actually started when Angie volunteered Paul’s help. I had mumbled something about feelin’ guilty about imposing on their Saturday morning. If she hadn’t voluntarily offered it, I probably wouldn’t have asked for Paul’s help. You know how guys are. And besides, He didn’t know me from Adam’s odd ox.

But Angie said, “If we didn’t want to help, I wouldn’t have offered it.” And that’s exactly what makes a RAK so valuable. Paul agreed to help without ever having laid eyes on me and my heavy wood furniture. Of course, had he known just how heavy it really was, he probably would have had second thoughts. And rightfully so. Paul’s RAK didn’t come without a price. Besides some sore muscles the next day, he also suffered a cut on one of his hands that drew some blood.

Do you see the correlation here? There once was a man named Jesus who paid a price He didn’t owe because we owed a debt we couldn’t pay. He carried a heavy wooden cross uphill to shed His blood and die for you and me. His muscles weren’t just sore. They were literally ripped from his body, along with his tendons and most of his skin, with a flesh-ripping, bone-tipped ugly whip. It was the ultimate RAK. Doin’ something for us that we couldn’t do for ourselves. Before we had ever met Him!!

So every time we perform a RAK, we’re like runners and bikers who wear reflective clothing at night. We’ll be reflectors of the love of Jesus if we’ll just slow down and keep our ‘feelers’ (antenna) up to notice and be aware of someone who needs a RAK.

Paul, the one with the donkey, not the one with the hemi, had a couple of things to say about being kind. Be kind and compassionate to one another (Ephesians 4:32). And always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else (1 Thessalonians 5:15), whether you know them or not. (The Italics are mine.) RAK’s are also helpful in remembering that whoever is kind to the needy honors God. Those are not my words. They belong to Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived (Proverbs 14:31).

So here’s your homework. Start your day tomorrow by taking five pennies out of your piggy bank or the ash tray in your car and put them in your left pocket. A nickel won’t work. It must be five pennies. And every time you perform a Random Act of Kindness, take one of the pennies out of your left pocket and put it in your right pocket.

At the end of the day, you’ll still have your five pennies, but you will have given away something many times more valuable. Someone you don’t even know just might need your touch to help carry their load. Or someone you do know could be saying, Hey, brother, can you spare a RAK? After all, how much is a penny worth? Just read the words of my old friend Paul the Apostle. Or ask me about my new friend Paul Hammond.

I think he has a pocket full of pennies!