Dr. Ed’s Hobo Apprentice

This morning I visited Dr. Ed once again. Now as I have said previously, it’s an inspirational yet quirky corner of my brain. Dr. Ed is among other things a Strategic Encourager. He goes to great, and unusual lengths, to accomplish this. You never quite know what to expect next, which is why I always enter with the intent of not being surprised, and yet I always leave amazed.

Prior to reaching the studio this morning, I was walking in the parking lot. I’m used to strange vehicles, after all this is an imaginary journey. I did not however expect to see a train box car parked near the front. You know the kind I’m talking about, you see it in old movies, it’s usually behind a steam locomotive.

That was odd enough, but when I walked through the front door, I heard train sounds in the lobby, when I walked to where Dr. Ed’s office was last visit, a make shift tent and clothesline had replaced it. I walked through the opening and instantly everything was even weirder than I expected, no surprise.

It was what we would have called years ago, a hobo’s camp. Various character traits, and figments of my imagination, Tom Sawyer etc. were all around. I asked if the Doctor was in and they pointed me east. When I arrived, I couldn’t help but laugh at what I saw.

There was Dr. Ed, shoeless, socks in his coat pocket, his suit legs rolled up, wading in a creek. He was holding a make shift fishing pole talking to a hobo that looked very much like me when I am severely depressed, he called him Rome.

“Rome, you can’t get so down when you have a problem. Everybody goes through things, some days you’ll have good days, other days will be absolutely, completely, utterly horrible. Some days will be terrible, excruciating periods of time that you will fight the entire day.” It was there that I stopped him. I took him aside, for the first time ever, Dr. Ed was off his game.

I said, “I don’t want to hurt your feelings Dr. Ed, but I don’t think you’re being very edifying right now. That’s not the way I would lead in to fixing this guy’s problem.” His response was to laugh at me, and hand me his fishing pole. Then he stuck both hands in the water, and pulled out a 10 lb trout.

I stood there dumbfounded and confused, a byproduct of a visit to Dr. Ed. “My dear boy, Rome is not the one that is discouraged. He is my apprentice, Dr. Ed. Jr. if you wish. Trademark and Patent pending of course. I’m training him on what to expect in his practice of roaming the countryside encouraging others.”

He continued, “You see, encouragement is not done in a vacuum. It’s easy to encourage others on good days. It’s even somewhat easy on mildly perturbing days. The real challenge is to encourage others on those days when they feel that they are fighting for their very existence.”

All of this he explained while wrestling to hold on to a flopping trout. “Ok, I see I’ve stepped into another one of your visual workshops, so explain the hobo and the fish.” He laughed, “My dear boy, Rome is merely going to travel the box car of your cerebral cortex attempting to encourage those who are somewhat perplexed or cast down by life’s circumstances.”

“In other words, preferably English words, he’s going to Edify when someone’s down. That I get, but how does talking about the horrible days, an imaginary hobo, and that trout accomplish that?” At which point, he pitched the trout towards me, so I dropped the fishing pole. Now I stood there, the pole submerged under my feet, fighting to hold on to the daily catch.

Dr. Ed sat down on the bank and began to explain. “As I was saying to Rome, people fight every day just to hold on to some form of peace. The mistake we, even as Christians, make is this, we think that our happiness depends on our circumstances. In other words, much like a fisherman, we’re only happy when we ‘catch’ something.”

“If we don’t catch anything one day, were mildly unhappy. Two days we’re worried, three days and we’re in a panic. We can get so overwhelmed that when we do finally catch something, we toss everything out just to hang on to what we’ve accomplished, or pursued.

“We sacrifice the tools of our trade for the results, much like you sacrificed the instrument that would catch more fish for one measly trout. The songwriter said in this way.”

O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear,
All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.

I nodded, he wasn’t off his rocker at all, he was just getting my attention. “In other words, we should cherish the Provider more than His provision, especially in the hard days. I should have dropped the fish, and held on to the fishing pole?” He smiled, “You’re close, but the fishing pole is merely the tool that God gave you to reap His provision.”

“Too many people substitute trusting in their talents instead of trusting in the Giver Of Talents. In those times when you’re cold, tired, and frustrated, don’t hold on to your things, or your means of obtaining those things. Hold on to The God that gave you both, but this isn’t about material things, this is about your state of mind.”

I dropped the fish and smiled. Dr. Ed smiled, “What have you learned?” “Oh no”, I said, “Rome is your pupil, give him the pop quiz.” Rome joined us, “Dr. Ed was saying two things actually, one before you got here, and the other after you arrived.”

“First, my mission is not to explain to others why they should be happy. Edifying leads to happiness, but it’s not it’s first stop. The Scripture tells us not only to Rejoice with them that rejoice, but to mourn with them that mourn. I’m too support those who are going through a battle.”

“Not so much by the words that I say, but the shoulder I have to bear their burdens with. I can’t get so caught up in results that I miss the point. I’m not here to erase every problem, I’m to be with them until the problem ends. Edifying your friends is an act of relationship. One of the most famous Scriptures in the Book of Psalms is in Psalms 23, Verse 4. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou [art] with me;”

“David was encouraged in this, not by the words God said, but by God’s presence. At times, all I have to be to encourage others, is too simply be there for them. Even if it’s as simple as going fishing with a friend who’s down.”

Dr. Ed gave Rome an A+ that day, and like always, I learned something in the process. The three of us spent the afternoon setting on the bank fishing. We caught some, missed others, and enjoyed some fellowship.

His apprentice learned a lot this summer, as did I. This included the fact that encouraging others is more about relationship than accomplishment. It’s taken time for me to learn that over the years, but it took his apprentice some time too. You’ll forgive me, but after all, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day.’

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