George Bowers Sr.: Parable of the firewood
The firewood had been cut and neatly stacked by early September in anticipation of the upcoming winter. As the days and weeks passed, the nights got cooler and cooler and even though the homeowner covered the stack with a tarp to shield the pieces from rain and snow, it provided little real warmth. Those pieces whose bark had been removed in the splitting process were especially chilly, but they all huddled together and made do.
Red Oakley and Whitey Ash frequently talked of their days standing tall on yonder mountain before that harsh blizzard laid them both low. They fondly recalled hosting songbirds in their branches and feeding the squirrels with their excess seeds. They even counted the many generations of deer they had seen grow from fawns to full grown bucks.
Meanwhile, Mrs. Sassy Frass lay nearby doing little but complain. Even though her fall dress had far out-colored many others in her day, she bemoaned the fact that it still wasn’t quite as attractive as Marla Maple’s and she grumbled about how the phoebes, turkeys, and thrushes so rudely gobbled up her berries each fall.
Then one day in mid-October, the homeowner paid a visit to the woodpile and carried several pieces into his home, including Red. No one knew exactly what it was like in there, but they all cherished the idea of shelter and imagined it had to be warmer than laying out in the elements. Chester Chestnut, who was stacked on the edge of the pile, could even occasionally glimpse through a window how everyone was laughing inside and it seemed so warm and cozy.
After the man had re-covered the stack and ventured back inside, Sassy whined loudly about how good Red must now have it. It was just plain unfair. How could it be that she had to remain in the frigid temperatures, which were getting colder with each passing day, while old Red got to be in the warmth?
The owner returned week after week carrying more wood into his home and with each load, Sassy’s complaints grew louder. Some of the other pieces said they thought her grain was even beginning to take on a green color as she envied every piece that was carried inside. Why was she not chosen? Why couldn’t it be her turn? Why did the others have it so good? Whitey tried to tell her not to fret and worry since it did no good anyway and just made everyone more miserable, including herself, but she continued to grumble. The very next week, Whitey and Chester were chosen and hauled into the house with the moans of Sassy echoing behind them.
Then one day in early December, it was her turn. Sassy looked forward to seeing her friends inside as she nestled into the wheel barrow for her ride up to the house. She could already feel the warmth as the door was opened for pieces to be carried in. She was so excited as she was stacked onto the smaller pile indoors, although she didn’t see her three friends. In fact, for all the pieces she had seen hauled in, this pile was entirely too small. Where was everyone? And then she saw the woodstove sitting in the corner and realized she hadn’t had it so bad outside on the pile after all.
Let us be careful about thinking others always have it better than we do, for seldom do we know the whole story. Paul said in Philippians 4:12, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.” Although I’m still learning, this is my goal. May we each strive toward it.
George Bowers Sr. is the pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of four books, including his latest book of poetry, “Wit and Wisdom of the Woods.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.