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A Midweek Musing on Soap and Toothpaste 9-27-23

Because I love living life on the wild side, last week during my Fall break I did all kinds of crazy things such as get a flu shot, have a new dishwasher installed, deep clean the bathroom, and go to the dentist! Try not to be jealous.

Since no one in my family asked (because they were either at work or in Florida), I would like to take this time to report that I had no cavities.

When I was a kid growing up, I would get to go to the treasure box if I had no cavities but now, I get a bill and a goodie bag with the smallest tube of toothpaste ever made, a new toothbrush, dental floss (yucky but necessary), and coupons.

Now one of the coupons surprised me because it was for soap. I expected coupons for mouthwash and dental floss or an electric toothbrush but not soap. That is until I looked at the bottom of the coupon and let what I read there take me bounding down an interesting rabbit hole, thanks to the internet and Google.

Here is what I discovered. In the early days of our country, a young man living in New York went out to make his fortune. He was a second-generation immigrant and wanted advice on where to begin. He had an older friend who was a local harbor captain whom he greatly admired, and he decided to ask him for advice. He said he was seeking advice on being not just successful but also great!

After talking with him a while and asking questions, the wise sailor asked this young man what he was good at. He answered he was good at making starch, candles, and soap. He had apprenticed in a shop that made this as a child. The captain then responded for him to be the best starch, candle, and soap maker possible.

However, he said, “If you want to be great also, then not only do it well; but do one other thing. Take the Lord into partnership with you. Give him at least one–tenth of what you make and realize that it is God who is in charge of the partnership, not you.”

Taking this advice to heart, this young man used his resources to open up a small shop on Dutch Street in New York City. Within a few years, because of the quality of his work, his business expanded. They built larger locations and later a factory. Later they branched out into new enterprises including toothpaste. As his success continued his initial tithing moved from 10% to even more.

He moved from giving to the church to helping other missions.

He helped found the American Bible Society. He funded missionaries. As his company grew and expanded, he became a philanthropist which his son and company continued after his death.

He also helped found a seminary and college (now University) which now bears his name. It is also the name of the toothpaste you may have used to start your day – Colgate – yes Colgate Toothpaste and Colgate University.

Yes, even though William Colgate achieved greatness by the world’s standards, he knew a different kind of greatness: that which comes from serving God and others.

Friends, God never promises us we will be blessed in worldly ways like Colgate. However, Colgate’s greatness was not simply because he was successful with soap and detergent (Irish Spring and Palmolive for example.) He was great because he remembered that his primary call was to serve God by serving others.

Not all of us will achieve riches – most of us won’t and that is ok. God never promises us such. But God does tell us we can all be great, simply by serving the “least of these.”

The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. said it so eloquently. “Everybody can be great...because anybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Friends, may we each seek to be great by our serving others by loving them unconditionally as we seek to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with God.

In the name of the father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Alleluia, Amen.

PS - Don’t forget to floss. :)




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