I should have remembered to put this disclaimer in earlier. Interestingly enough, parents of small children probably appreciate silence more than anyone else – as long as their kids are safely in bed asleep.
When Sunny succumbed to hepatitis, the Dallas School System allowed teachers one day of sick leave for every month of teaching. Most employees found it quite generous as they often accumulated six to nine days of sick leave every year which could be changed into money at the end of their employment.
For Sunny, the four days of earned leave were used up before she even entered the hospital. So she found herself with absolutely no income for living expenses, much less the quickly mounting medical bills. All of this when she had just purchased a house and a car on credit, and was just starting a savings account for Hard Times.
But Hard Times knocked her down before she was ready and she was too sick to fight back. The “easy living” the family had expected after graduation evaporated even while new debts increased her needs. 1954 was years before the Federal and State Governments had crafted their “poverty solutions” for families in a financial bind. Fear and despair almost eradicated all hope.
But God was in the picture. He just used other people’s hands and pocketbooks to provide for widows and orphans:
Her mother left her own home and closed down her own affairs to move to Dallas to help care for Sunny and her grandchildren.
Her sister saved enough out of her family’s expenses to send three checks during the months of illness and recovery.
A Sunday school class at her new church arranged for one of the members to come every Monday and Thursday with a meal prepared for the whole family and a bag full of additional groceries.
A group of friends from New Mexico “passed the hat” around and collected several hundred dollars to help with expenses. Then two couples drove to Dallas to deliver it in person. While visiting, the men also took care of several honey-do type repairs that needed attention. Then they drove the thirteen-hour-one-way trip back to Lea County.
The teacher of the younger son’s Sunday school class asked if he could take him out for a movie one Saturday. When they returned home, the son wore new shoes and carried a bag with a new shirt, a new pair of trousers, and three new pairs of socks. Of course, what excited him the most was the movie he had gotten to see and attention from an adult male.
All the neighbors on the street made sure the sixteen-year-old girl had all the babysitting jobs she could possibly handle. Most of those earnings bought gas for their car, which at that time was about twenty-five cents a gallon.
A woman in the church provided the daughter with hand-me-downs that were more expensive and better quality than any clothes she had previously worn.
New Mexico’s senior senator had earlier appointed the older son as a page to the US Senate. So he was living in a home with other pages at a nominal fee, going to a private school at no cost, and earning a small salary, not to mention the extraordinary experiences at the US Senate. While still in high school, he managed to send a little bit of money home every month. (By the way, Sunny’s in-laws had helped Senator Chaves with free room and board when he first ran for office decades earlier and this was his generous re-payment for their hospitality.)
Probably there were many other gifts and extensions of kindness that I am not aware of. But at least this helps people understand a real-life example of providing for the needy in a way that builds self esteem and bonds of friendship in both giver and receiver. Without the Byzantine rules, restrictions or admonitions of our current welfare system, each gift encouraged the family members to use it wisely, living up to all opportunities that became available. While those were difficult times, each one grew emotionally and spiritually because of the people who helped them, in effect putting their money where their mouths were and saying, “I believe in you.” And, no doubt, the givers were also rewarded for their generosity.
It was so much more compassionate and efficient than our current system that fosters a permanent underclass of third and fourth generation welfare recipients. These people have become people who are poor, not just currently broke, because they have neither incentive nor belief they can honestly do any better. What a loss for the whole country!
This is a picture of my mother in an earlier, happier time when she visited in Garden Hills. This was on the back deck and she was busily setting the table as if the King of Siam was coming for dinner. Instead, it was just us kids, eating supper together.
If you have followed this blog awhile, you will remember that her memory is practically non-existent now. It’s so bad that I have to re-introduce myself when I call her. And an hour later, she may or may not remember that I called at all, much less anything we discussed.
But I still call several times a week because she is so happy to talk, whether she remembers much about the call or not. She doesn’t forget that warm, happy feeling of being loved and does all that she can to return it. Despite some cognitive losses, she’s never forgotten to show gratitude.
This weekend, when I talked to the person caring for her, she interrupted our conversation to explain to him how happy the supper she had just eaten made her feel. She extolled its delicate flavors and nutrition as if some famous chef had just dropped in to prepare it. Mind you, she’s served three meals a day, many of which are boring and repetitive. Still, she thanks them out loud for any effort on her behalf. Every. Single. Time.
And she’s never lost that rare ability to bring out the best in other people just by having a generous attitude toward them. I have watched many social misfits that everyone else found boring, blossom and actually becoming rather witty after an hour or two of her rapt attention. Strangely enough, often they even became easier on the eye as they relaxed in the warmth of her approval.
As I eavesdropped over the phone, I began remembering how often I had seen her eyes light up and her face soften as she tried to convince someone else of his great value to the rest of the world.
Apparently, gratitude brings beauty to both the giver and the receiver. Maybe we don’t get halo’s, but everyone appears more attractive and happier when they have a grateful heart. Perhaps we should try it more often.
This is a lifestyle and informational blog for those writers who feel they are caught between being in the midst of struggle, making some progress and feeling stuck in the meantime. This blog will be interrupted with interviews from authors and self help experts that have already been there and impart their own advice and info. Think of it as deciding to live a bare minimum lifestyle to reach your maximum creative potential. Let's take this journey together.