We lived next door to a poor family. They had five children and when they all lined up in a row they were perfectly symmetrical in their height progression until Jake had a growth spurt in the sixth grade and ruined it all.
And there was a poor family on the other side of us too. In fact, they were all around us. I guess that meant we were poor, but I never felt that way.
We were never takers and I don’t really judge those who are. But it wasn’t my Mom’s style. She was a giver. She gave her possessions. She gave money. She gave blessings.
It always seemed like the stray dogs of humanity found their way to our door. We had some interesting characters in our life. Like the guy who had rigged up a basket to his bike and convinced businesses to strap a placard to his back and another in the basket. He would drive up and down the main highway all day on this three-wheeled bicycle earning a few dollars from the signs he carried.
Mom would load up his basket with groceries, “a few extra things” she found at the store. My brother and I had to dash out of the car with a bag each and plop them in his basket while he was wasn’t looking. He always caught us and shook his finger at my mom, “I can’t….” his protests lost to exhaust of our car driving away, my mother smiling.
We gave away refrigerators, canned tomatoes, fresh peaches, used vacuum cleaners from the thrift stores, and gasoline. There was always someone in need and it seems like Mom was there to meet it.
The funny thing is Dad was the one earning the money. He worked hard, roofing houses, exposed to the elements. I’m not sure she ever consulted with him. And I don’t know how all of those communications worked out. Maybe he saw it as ministry, his heart tender but his words few.
I admit I felt those jealous pains when I couldn’t go to an event or play a sport or an instrument because there wasn’t the money. It didn’t seem quite fair in my little mind at times that I was the one who had to suffer while others benefited. But what I lost in childhood experiences, I gained in lifetime lessons. It is more blessed to give than to receive
I remember Mom taking the hands of the hurting – those who lost a job, or a spouse, or had a child run away from God – and her looking into their eyes saying, “For this, we have Jesus.”
Karen Fendick of Flickers of a Faithful Firefly recently said “We use words to let others know they are known.” I saw this play out a thousand times.
We don’t always have money. We don’t always have a spare refrigerator. We don’t always have first and last month’s rent in our bank account. But we all have words and we all have life and we all have a moment to make difference.The one gift every person needs. The one gift every person can give is their words of blessing.
In the end, we didn’t spend much time dividing an estate. There was an old Jeep that I took. My sister has the blue canning jars and some photo albums. My brother never bothered to inquire.
They died empty. They had a loose grip on the things of this world. And we were richer for it.
Thanks to Tammy Hendricksmeyer who took the great photo and for her boys who were natural models.