A child's service

When the gravel slid from the bed of the massive dump truck, it seemed a rather small load. About 4 1/2 tons, the driver said.

When the truck pulled away, there sat the gravel — on the concrete driveway of Ricardo's house.

Ricardo needed the gravel, but not on the driveway. The driveway was simply as close as the truck could get.

So, now, one wheelbarrow load at a time, Ricardo would haul the gravel 30-40 yards around the house and into the backyard.

It wasn't terribly difficult work. Yes, the sun was hot. And the route, through the not-yet-landscaped backyard, was a bit bumpy. And there were some small hills to go down and up. But Ricardo was glad that he had been blessed with the health and strength to do it. And he knew that, one wheelbarrow load at a time, he could eventually complete the task.

Besides, his ego was already feeling a few strokes at the thought of bragging to his 20-something-year-old sons that he had single-handedly hauled 4 1/2 tons of gravel to the backyard. It was sometime during the hauling that Ceely returned.

The 6-year-old next-door neighbor had been there earlier. She and her brother and sister often showed up when Ricardo was working in his yard. They were fun to talk to, asked great questions, and often showed wise-beyond-their-years insight into that day's project — all of which made the work just a little more pleasant.

Today, their wide-eyed exploration and investigation into the wonders of a suburban flower garden made their visit that much more enjoyable.

While exploring, Ceely and her sister, Avenly, had found 41 snails. Ricardo lost 41 pests; the girls found 41 pets. (If all parties are happy, then the trade was fair, right?)

It was after feeding and putting the snails down for an afternoon nap that Ceely returned — this time carrying a small plastic bucket. If Ricardo had given any thought to the bucket, he would have assumed it was a temporary home for more snails or, perhaps, other new-found garden creatures.

But when he, pushing the empty wheelbarrow, returned to the gravel pile, he saw what the plastic bucket was for.

If Ceely were "a certain poor widow," the bucket was her "two mites" — in service to her much-older neighbor. (See Mark 12:42.)

There, in the gravel pile, knelt Ceely, bucket between her legs, scooping small rocks with her tiny hands. When she had filled the bucket, she waited for Ricardo to take the next wheelbarrow load to the back of the house. She followed, carrying two mites worth of gravel in her plastic bucket.

"Where would you like me to put it?" she asked when they reached the backyard.

"Right there would be just fine."

After at least a dozen similar trips — during which Ceely found a small garden shovel to help fill her bucket and decided to wear flip-flops rather than going barefoot — Ricardo began to realize that, maybe, the bragging rights for single-handedly moving 4 1/2 tons of gravel weren't that big a deal. Maybe those bragging rights were a little more like the "rich (who) cast in much." His adult muscles and large wheelbarrow might have moved more gravel. But Ceely's childlike heart and tiny bucket contributed a greater gift.

Like the widow, Ceely gave because she wanted to give. She moved, relatively, only a few pebbles. But she also moved a grown man's soul. For that — and the pebbles — he is very grateful.

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