Resurrection Chapel National Cathedral, Washington, D.C.

Monday, September 24, 2012


The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such there is no law.
                           Galatians 5:22, 23

It was said of George Hawthorne that he never met a charity he didn't like, or one that didn't build his reputation.

In his twenties, George bought into a succession of cutting edge electronics companies, securing his fortune early and allowing him to become, in many ways, the First Citizen of Forest Grove.

Raised with the understanding that much is expected from those to whom much is given, he worked his way to the center of the community's civic life.  No Community Chest drive could begin without a televised ceremony at which George wrote a five-figure first check.  Christmas observances at the Children's Hospital centered on George's appearance as Santa Claus, bearing gifts for the children, and a check for the research department.  As the decades turned there was a classroom building for his alma mater, a library wing, a homeless shelter, food for local pantries, equipment for soup kitchens and much more.  It mattered little what the cause might be.  Directors of service agencies knew that George would meet their needs, with the only stipulation being that he be given credit.

In time George Hawthorne came to the end of his days.  His funeral was the largest anyone in Forest Grove could remember, with dignitaries from the state capitol, Washington and several foreign countries.  With great feeling the minister recalled Jesus' words, “As you did to the least of these, my brethren, you did also to me.”  He concluded the eulogy, “We may say with certainty that even now our dear brother George has heard the Master's words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”

As the tributes were being delivered, George, approached a wondrous city gate in another dimension, and presented himself with confidence to an angel holding a massive book.

“Your name, sir.”

“I am George Hawthorne, of Forest Grove.  I'm a Christian since age 14, and my deeds of service are many.”

The angel scanned the pages of the book, and at length looked up, “I’m afraid I cannot find you.”

George was puzzled, “That's odd.  Check the records for Forest Grove - the hospitals, schools, libraries, soup kitchens, Boy Scouts, athletic leagues, to name just a few.”

The angel picked up another book and searched.  “I'm sorry, sir, this book of deeds doesn’t give names, but it indicates that whoever did those things in Forest Grove sought publicity and praise.  Our Lord taught that for such people the publicity and praise are their own reward, and their names do not get transferred to the Book of Life.  I’d like to help - you don’t seem a bad man.  You’re free to make yourself at home here, outside the city, but I cannot let you in.”

The angel turned and entered the city while George, baffled and forlorn, sat down to consider this most unexpected turn of events.  At first he was confused, annoyed and wondered what kind of record keepers they had in this place.  As time passed, however, his mood changed.  He saw with uncompromising clarity the motive behind all that he had done: all the years of good works done not for their own sake, nor to the glory of God, but blatantly for the building of his own reputation.  There were times when he had felt real compassion, and truly wanted the best for the recipients of his generosity, though even in those times his insistence on recognition spoiled the gesture.  As the review continued George felt more and more shabby, the memory of each deed dry as ash and bitter as gall.  So absorbed did he become that at first he didn't notice when the angel returned.

“I have a question for you, sir.  Are you by any chance the same George Hawthorne who used to feed the birds in your back yard during the cold winter months?”

George looked up, scratched his head, thought for a moment, and replied, “I guess I am, though to be honest I can barely remember.”

“There's a truly saving grace in that sir!” said the angel, “Come into the city.  The Maker of the birds wants to thank you in person.”

Howard MacMullen
© September, 2012

With a tip of the hat to an anonymous
storyteller who told a similar tale
 many years ago

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