Are you one?
Have you noticed that you feel better around some people than others? You smile more in their presence and afterward feel a little lighter, a bit more cheerful? I think of those people as “purveyors of hope.” They help me to know that beyond every mountain I face there is a path...even if I can't see it from the valley. I need those kinds of people – those purveyors of hope – in my life.
John Chapman, born in 1774 in Massachusetts, was a great purveyor of hope in his day. In the early 1800's he got in on the opening of land in the Northwest Territory, as it was then called, of the new United States. He found small plots of land suitable for farming and cleared them by hand. He bought fruit seed in Pennsylvania every year and carried it to his many apple orchards, usually on his back.
When the trees were large enough to transplant, he sold them to settlers homesteading the West. Eventually, he had little apple orchards spread around what would become the states of Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and Indiana. Most people forgot, or never knew, his real name, and took to calling him Johnny the Apple Man or Johnny Appleseed.
Johnny was a gentle man with a big vision. He was liked by most people who knew him, the native Indians and white settlers alike. His vision was to spread the goodness of apple trees everywhere people settled. Apples, he believed, gave the promise of harvest and hope that the wilderness would become home. Every tree he grew was a symbol of hope.
Johnny had another curious habit. He loved books, but did not have the means to carry more than two, usually a Bible and a book of inspiration or theology. The books he chose were full of hope. Because Johnny wanted to share his books, he carefully cut chapters out of whatever inspirational book he had available and loaned one or two chapters to families that wanted to read, or simply needed a lift. He'd later swap those chapters for others when he came back through. In this way he spread some hope and encouragement wherever he traveled.
His grave can be found today in Fort Wayne, Indiana. It says, "John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed). He lived for others."
Johnny was a great purveyor of hope. This old world could use a few more of his ilk. You?
-- Steve Goodier
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