Harrell Beck

The Wisdom of Harrell Beck

No Commercial Value


I was at the University of British Columbia -- went with a student pastor out to lunch.  He said, “It’s gonna take a few minutes extra. I gotta go by the post office to get to lunch.”  I said, “What are we going to the post office for?”  He said, “I’m gonna mail an American parishioner back to the United States.”  I said, “Where is he?”  He said, ”In the little brown box on the back seat.”  Boy was I surprised.  It was the ashes of a parishioner who had died in Canada. So we walked into the post office and I was truly interested on whether we’d have to pay duty. You know, how much duty do you pay on a parishioner?  There’s a set of variables that’d be hard to deal with.  He said to the postal clerk, “Do we have to pay duty?”  And the Canadian postal clerk said, “Not if you write three words on the box.”  By now I was all ears.

We said, “What are they?”  And he said, “No Commercial Value.”  And I thought, wouldn’t it be great if we could write on people’s foreheads when they’re alive what we write on their boxes when they are done?  Oh, Father, forgive me.

Give yourself to a cause, a person, a possibility bigger than you are.  Believe that persons are ultimately valuable.


“The Story of Three Wise Women” Preaching Conference, Board of Ordained Ministry Arrowhead Springs, San Bernardino, CA Harrell Beck May, 1986