Take the smaller slice

The Standard November 25, 2021

My husband often uses an illustration that, when cutting a pie, there are those who cut it straight down the middle and take a piece the exact size of the one they give away. His father, Johnny Marshall Stone, would cut the pie a bit off-center, and would offer the larger slice to someone else. At his recent visitation and funeral, several people told us stories which highlighted this generous nature. One man said that when his wife was undergoing treatment for cancer and needed more protein, Johnny would grill steaks and take them over. There were first cousins who gave emotional accounts of their love for this man whom they counted on their entire lives.

According to the one remaining sister, Johnny, their two sisters and she grew up too happy to notice that they were poor. In a rural part of Lee County, NC these four siblings, two of whom were born during The Great Depression, were raised by hard-working, faithful parents. On cold winter nights, they would crawl into their beds and not move from underneath a big pile of blankets. One morning Johnny discovered that his goldfish had frozen in the bowl.

His father had a brother who struggled with an alcohol addiction and who had a wife and seven children. Johnny and his sisters regularly saw their dad deliver boxes of food for this aunt and cousins so they would not go hungry.  At a young age, Johnny began working and took great satisfaction in being able to help his family, to buy his own clothes and to pay for other things he wanted. When his sister, a year behind him in high school, really wanted a class ring, he saved up and bought her one. Johnny was industrious and meticulous in his work. When his employment at Cooke’s Poultry drew to a close, he started JMS Landscaping. Over the course of more than forty years, Johnny donated countless loads of rocks and other materials and mowed without charge for neighbors when they were in a bind. The minister shared at the funeral that Johnny had given him a riding lawnmower so he no longer would have to push mow his large yard and that he voluntarily had done landscaping for the church on several occasions.

Being quietly generous is such a Christ-like quality. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus warns, “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So, when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6:1-4)

The next time we are in a position to “cut the pie,” maybe we will be sure to take the smaller slice without making it obvious.

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