(re-written based on a joke once told by Ronald Reagan*)
Once in early America an average man worked hard and earned some money, and he saved the money until he had a modest amount. He heard word that they were opening up some frontier land so he quit his job, sold many of his possessions and purchased passage on a wagon train headed for the new land grab.
But he found upon arriving that a lot of the good land was already gobbled up by the new settlers and what little land was left was far less tillable, overgrown and at higher prices due to the steadily increasing demand. So he looked over the varous plots and found most to be too hilly or too rocky or too wet and they were all much smaller than he’d hoped for. But he wasn’t about to be let down on his dream so he found a reasonably flat piece of land that was considerably overgrown and rocky but that he thought he could turn around with dedication and hard work.
Due to all the new settlers moving about a town quickly sprung up in the county seat and soon along came a church. Since the man came with basically what he could carry on his back and what money he had, he was often in need of supplies as he labored to turn his small stretch of land into a viable farm. So once a week he would make the 4 mile trip to town to get more supplies.
Every time he went into town, the new preacher would see him and recognizing that his was a face that he had not seen in church at Sunday mass, the preacher would always walk with him and try to talk him into coming to church. The preacher would tell the man of all the blessings that a faithful man could expect and all the bounty that God could bring. But the man would politely decline the invitation and suggest that he had far too much work to do on his land to make it a worthy and productive farm.
Thus was the case every week. The man would go for supplies, the preacher would spot him and go into his pitch. The man would politely decline. But work hard he did, he moved the rocks a wheel barrel at a time to the edges of the property to build a small rock border around the entire plot. He cut down and pulled up the weeds until this hands were raw. He tilled at the soil finding more and more rocks and used the smaller ones to grade a cart path up the middle. He cut some trees and built a small, modest house and eventually a barn. And before too long, after pulling thousands of weeds and moving more thousands of rocks he began to lay down seed.
As the crops began to grow he had less of a need to go to town for supplies and his trips became less and less frequent and eventually, as his crops began to bear fruit he found that he barely needed to go at all. But still, on what trips he made, the preacher always made a point corner the man and to tell him all about the wonderful blessings he could expect as a follower of God.
After a month had passed and the preacher did not see the man in town he began to wonder. For all his attempts he hadn’t convinced the man to come to a single service. Then one month became two months and two turned into three. Winter was coming and the preacher decided he should make a trip before the weather gets cold to see what became of the man. So the preacher ventured the 4 miles to where the man’s claim was said to be registered.
As the preacher rounded the corner of the country road he was overcome! Despite the nearly unturned land on the neighboring plots where the other land grabbers had all but given up, here stood 8′ tall rows of corn, rows of tomatoes shining bright red in the sun. Squash the size of a wash basin and melons as big as a small sow. The preacher was amazed at the contrast between the bountiful farm and the surrounding land. His crops even rivaled the ones he’d seen on the more prime tracks of land owned by the members of his parish. At last the preacher spied the man hauling a basket overflowing with strawberries the size of one’s fist.
“Hallelujah!” exclaimed the preacher upon seeing the man. “Hallelujah and praise the Lord! Your land and your farm are like a miracle. Your corn is taller than the eaves of your house! And the ears appear as long as my forearm. Your squash would fit but 2 to a cartload and the melons probably only one. The tomatoes are so ripe and red… and those strawberries – oh those strawberries are downright divine! It is absolutely amazing what the power of God and the work of man can do to create such a bountiful blessing!”
The man set this basket down and looked across his land remembering all the bleeding fingers, sore muscles, trip after trip with rocks and bundles of weeds and supplies from town and the hours tilling the soil, planting the seeds, pulling more weeds and tending to his crops. But not wanting to be too unpleasant to the preacher he simply tipped his hat and said….
“Preacher, you should have seen it when God was working it all by himself.”
(*I’m not sure where Ronald Reagan got the joke, but I reworded the context considerably)