The way the story was told to me, Granddaddy’s friend, Mr. Bob whose job was to offer a prayer every Sunday morning at church during the service prior to the preacher’s sermon, a job he had held for years. Sunday was a special day for the community, and for him to have a position where he would have the attention of everyone was a big deal. More accurately stated it was a platform for him to perform. He would have been a great entertainer.
Mr. Bob would walk to church every Sunday morning, rain or shine, from his home. The trip was several miles up and down hills and around curves, and he would be dressed in his best suit for the morning service. During the walk he would practice his part for the service, the prayer, with the intention of making it a show complete with screams and tears. This show would sometimes last thirty minutes. There were many Sundays one would wonder how one man could have so much to ask of the Lord and maybe say, please, let somebody else get a blessing.
On his way to church this particular Sunday, Mr. Bob came across an injured snake. In what he perceived as divine intervention, God said to him, help this poor creature. He realized he did not have a prayer for that day’s service, so he thought, wow, if I help the snake I can pray for us to have the strength to help all of God’s creatures. Since the snake is the lowliest of all creatures, this would really inspire the congregation and hopefully give them the encouragement to do the same at least until next Sunday’s message. So he picked up the badly injured snake and placed him in a safe place until he could return from church.
With great energy, and now inspired, Mr. Bob went on his way. He planned and practiced his prayer as he marched on to church. After he arrived and exchanged a few greetings, the service began with a joyful noise, as they say, meaning full of song. Then it was his turn to pray. He began to pray with a powerful tone, full of emotion. He asked God to give each person within the sound of his voice the strength to reach out and help all God’s creatures, from the loving dove to the lowly snake. His message had many in the tiny church standing with shouts of Amen. He felt he had done his job as he closed, asking God to bless the church and said Amen. In his usual style this took about a half hour.
To his surprise, the pastor also chose a sermon nearly identical to his message which took about another hour and a half, talking about helping all of God’s creatures. What a great day it was, Mr. Bob thought. Normally after the service ended everyone hung around and fellowshipped as it was one of the few chances they had to socialize. Mr. Bob would not hang around on this day - he had a mission and left church in a hurry. He rushed back to the spot where his injured snake was placed hoping it would still be there. He was very excited when he arrived to find it was where he left it. He put his snake in a burlap bag he had gotten from the church and took the snake home.
Over the next several weeks Mr. Bob cared for this creature, desperately trying to save the snake and nursing it back to health. About three weeks later he thought it was time to take his snake back to where he found it, thinking it was well enough to be set free. The following Sunday, he put on his best suit and started his journey to church with snake in hand. As he arrived at the spot where he had found it, he thought, what a wonderful thing he had done. He was sure to receive God’s blessing for this act of kindness.
He rubbed the snake gently and said goodbye. However, when he reached into the bag to grab it, suddenly the snake raised his head and bit him. Then bit him again and again. Mr. Bob cried out, “Why would you bite me after all I’ve done for you? My God why?” I guess he was expecting an answer from God, but none came. He repeated his cry once more. Then the snake stuck his head out of the bag and said, “I am a snake and that’s what we do.”After hearing this story over and over again, I finally figured out what it meant. It was a lesson that would prove to be invaluable.