Like shopping for produce, we can choose which words we serve others from the field of our hearts.
It began as a fast morning, with me grabbing my video camera and tripod and heading out to meet with a number of people. I was recording segments for our Aug. 29 “Banquet of Heroes.” During the day, I interviewed many within the community as well as first responders. What was interesting to me was that almost everyone began their recording session with these words: “I’m not very good in front of a camera. I don’t know what to say.” I would encourage them and simply ask them to share their heart.
The main theme for the video testimonies was to simply say “Thank You!” Regardless of people and businesses within the community thanking our first responders or our great heroes thanking the community that stands beside and supports them, the power of gratitude gives us more than just a feeling of thankfulness. It gives us the words to freely express it.
One person shared how, during an accident, off-duty firefighters heard the crash, came to where he was and helped save his life. Another man said first responders came to his house and helped during a crisis with his wife. He remarked, “They were so big, like giants, yet they were so compassionate and kind.” One business owner used his facility to help raise money for a local first responder undergoing cancer treatment.
In talking with community leaders like Plant City Police Chief Ed Duncan and Fire Chief David Burnett, they both echoed the same sentiment of deep thanks for what the community has done and continues to do to make them feel supported and safe. One officer from Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said the love and support from the community helps her leave her three children every morning. That positive protection from us as a community is why the kids let her leave for work.
With every interview and video, the amazing stories of thanksgiving kept filling more than just the storage card in the camera, but the storeroom of my heart. I know that the heart is a fertile field for any seed sown and depending on the seed, the crop you harvest will be yours to share. Luke 6:45 tells us that what you have in your heart will come out of your mouth. I paused to consider this crucial principle in my daily walk and talk with others. I started listening to what was coming out of my mouth as it was now the sharing fruit from the field of my heart.
I would love to be able to say that the harvest was always gracious and giving, that the farmer’s market of my mouth brought forth love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, meekness and self-control. There were times that the sour grapes of my attitude came spilling out and the rotten apples of my impatience spoiled a special time. I know that even in the best of markets, there will be some bad fruit and vegetables. Yet when we are shopping for that perfect dinner side dish, we get to pick and choose the right tomato or squash for the meal. We also get to choose, each day, what we will serve our family and community from the field of our hearts.
At 7 p.m. Aug. 29, we get to say “Thank you” to our incredible first responders for all they have done and continue to do during the pandemic and ongoing problems (visit chaplaincycare.org for more info). We will also hear their thanks to a gracious community that has their backs and provides for their needs. It is only one night, but a harvest does not just come in one day — it comes daily.
Do you think it is possible for us to begin a morning routine of cultivating our character by tending the field of our heart? What would happen if we paused to check the fruit of our words like ripe tomatoes before serving (or throwing) them? As the strawberry fields will see planting and harvesting in the near future, we must daily prepare the words of our mouth and the meditations of our hearts to engage lovingly a hurting, but slowly healing, community. Now, who is ready to be filmed?
For the older generation, I leave you with these immortal words of Norma Desmond: “I’m ready for my close-up, Mr. DeMille.”
Dr. Daniel Middlebrooks is the Senior Chaplain of First Call Church and the CEO/President of Chaplaincy Care, Inc.