ONE PERSON’S IMPACT
When I was in grad school at Indiana University I met a descendant of John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed. Her family folklore confirmed much of what you can read about him on the internet. Johnny Appleseed was known as a kind-hearted generous man who loved animals and nature. He usually lived a solitary life out-doors and for 50 years traversed the Midwest planting apple seeds and giving them away to the folks he met along the way. He was also more than a little eccentric. His pants were tattered, and his shirt was often a seed-sack with arm holes cut out. He often walked barefoot even during the winter. His cooking pan turned upside down doubled as a hat (similar to Genghis Khan’s Mongol army, but that’s a story for another day)!
Many years ago, I went hiking in southern Indiana at Clifty Falls State Park. I decided to bushwhack—go off-trail and find my own way. This is not a very smart thing to do when hiking alone in a large unfamiliar wilderness, but I did it anyway. I hiked for some time through the deep forest and over remote hills until I came upon a beautiful glen that time seemed to have forgotten. There was a stand of perhaps twenty huge apple trees heavy laden with fruit in an obviously abandoned field. Grasses had grown thigh-high and a very old split rail fence in the pioneer manner had fallen down and decayed. Large red apples littered the field and, of course, I had to try one. It tasted awesome!
Now I have no way of knowing, but I like to think that Johnny Appleseed originally supplied the seeds for that special orchard. Regardless, it is amazing and a little humbling what one committed person pursuing a simple idea can accomplish and positively impact so many others. This one man spread good cheer across the early frontier and isolated homesteads throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. He distributed a sustainable healthy food source to supplement the relatively meager diets of the pioneers and used his extensive knowledge of medicinal herbs to help others. Johnny Appleseed was also well-known and had a harmonious relationship with the Native Americans that still populated much of the Midwest. During his long journeys, John Chapman became a self-styled missionary talking up the Gospel to folks he met. One of his sayings: “He on whom God’s light does fall, sees the great things in the small.” Johnny Appleseed lives on in numerous books and shows, several museums, and many statues, including one in Spring Grove Cemetery.
There is, of course, another person who walked the earth whose impact on this world, on people, and indeed eternity is far greater than any other in history. Consider the words about Jesus in Reverend Dr. James Francis’ essay One Solitary Life: “I am far within the mark when I say that all the armies that ever marched, all the navies that were ever built; all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as has that one solitary life.”
As we share in the Lord’s Supper this Sunday, we celebrate Christ’s life, His sacrifice on the Cross and glorious resurrection with its eternal consequences. His new covenant is the gift that keeps giving. And as we leave the service to go into the world, let us spread the Good News to the people we meet, treat them a little better, and maybe drop a few apple seeds along the way.
Bruce Fairbairn, Elder