Opinion | Walking Our Faith: What I learned from Biff America and St. Paul
Walking Our Faith
I’ve only met Biff America, also known as Jeffrey Bergeron, once. I had a wing back chair I wanted to give away because I was moving from one rental home to another. Jeffrey and his lovely wife, Ellen, stopped by to pick it up. When I looked star-struck, Ellen nodded and said, yes, it’s him. And Jeffrey remarked that my little area in the woods was lovely. I said the best part was there were far more trees than people, and I loved it for that reason.
I know Jeffrey a little better now because we’re friends on Facebook. I watch admiringly his backcountry skiing adventures which are in great contrast to my snowshoeing membership on a team that calls itself the SLO-POKES with good reason.
Jeffrey has occasionally commented on my columns and mentioned that while he doesn’t share my religious beliefs, he enjoys my column. And I enjoy reading Biff America not just for the humor but for his ability to find the good in people.
So when I read his column last week, “One Ply and Tassels,” my mind immediately made a connection between these two men and a passage from Saint Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians, which I’d heard in Mass at St. Mary’s.
In the twelfth chapter, Saint Paul says, “there are different kinds of gifts but the same same spirit, there are different kinds of service but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, and the same God works all of them in all men.”
Biff America described One Ply and Tassels as two men of our community from opposite ends of the economic spectrum, who shared a common dedication to community service.
St. Paul explains we each bring different talents to our service, “Now to each one is given for the common good. To one there is given through the spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same spirit, to another faith by the same spirit to another gifts of healing by that one spirit.”
Too often I measure the effectiveness of my service or the worth of my life by an unrealistic expectation of the size of my financial contribution or the reach of my words. One Ply, according to Biff’s description, was a man of humble economic circumstances who gave his time and treasure to help handicapped children learn to ski. Tassels gave his considerable wealth and talent to also help those in need and lost his life doing so far from home in Nepal, where he had gone to aid earthquake relief. What I often forget but was reminded of last weekend is the importance of our lives are not measured in dollars or recognition, but in how our service touches one life.
“Now the body is not made up of one part but of many. If the foot should say because I am not a hand I do not belong to the body it would not for that reason to cease to be part of the body. And if the ear should say because I am not an eye I do not belong to the body, it would not be for that reason to cease to be part of the body…but in fact God has arranged the parts of the body every one of them just as he wanted them to be.”
On the Sunday I heard Steve Piper read these words at the 10 a.m. Mass. They brought tears to my eyes. I was having one of those days of self-doubt. What I heard God saying through this passage is it’s useless to compare ourselves to others, that misses the point of our creation. We have each been given a gift that is uniquely ours to contribute to the good of our community.
The question is: Do we have the wisdom and grace of One-Ply and Tassels to give the best of our talents in service to others? Will we remember it’s not how much we have, but our willingness to give our best?
What have I learned from Biff America and Saint Paul? I hope you’ve seen, as I have, that they have something special in common. Both men write to share good news with the communities in which they live, and in doing so teach us how to live better lives, using gentle humor and wisdom.
And it’s my hope you’ll see the Bible in a new light and be inspired to pick it up and start reading.
Suzanne Anderson lives in Breckenridge. Her books can be found at the Next Page Books and Nosh on Main Street in Frisco.
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