Sunday, February 2, 2014
“You always have a choice to be kind. Taking the path of kindness is the road that our Lord travelled.” — Me
During the Great Depression in the thirties, my father hopped a freight train (no, he didn’t have the money for a ticket) in Florida to get to Little Rock, Arkansas, where he was going to propose to Merriam Roebuck, who became his wife and my mother and who was waiting for him. As the train passed through a small town in Mississippi, a yard bull (railroad security) tossed him off the train. He found himself rolling over and over in the dirt and soot in the poor, black part of that small town. An elderly African-American woman saw him land in the dirt and invited him into her home for a bath and a meal. Dad was very grateful for both and so, when she invited him to church (it was on a Sunday), my father readily agreed to attend. During the service, the woman asked the church for money to help my father get to Little Rock. The small, all black congregation raised enough money for a bus ticket all the way with some left over for food. One member of the congregation had a clothing store and gave dad a new suit (see picture at right) to wear when he asked my mother to marry him. They then fed him and took him to the station. He never forgot the kindness that he was given that day. Many, many years later, when he was a successful businessman, he traveled back to that small town in Mississippi to find and thank that elderly lady who had been so kind. He discovered that she had passed on and had no family left. Dad sought out the new pastor of her church that had also been so kind to him. The man was a little cautious at first, but warmed to my father’s charm and gratitude quickly. Dad asked how he could help the church and was told that they were struggling with their mortgage payments. My father went with the pastor to the bank and right there paid off the church’s mortgage much to the astonishment of both the pastor and the banker. All my father would say, was that he had been the recipient of kindness at a time and a place where it was needed and unexpected. It was the least he could do. That was my father. No act of kindness, however small, ever goes unrewarded—you just don’t know when or where it will come and sometimes you don’t recognize it for what it is, but kindness always counts. Helping strangers is sometimes helping angels unaware. I read that in a book.