In my senior year at college I spent spring break with my grandparents in Iowa. I was newly engaged, about to graduate and the world was my oyster. My grandmother could not understand why I would want to sit around a quiet house in the middle of the farm belt and watch my grandfather enjoy golf on TV.
I wanted to be with them because I liked them. They were good people. My father described his dad, “as close to an angel as you can get here on earth.” In their later years Grandma suffered pain from arthritis and longed for the heaven she fervently believed in, but Grampa had developed Alzheimers. They were a unit- he was her body, she was his mind. When he passed away, she let go of her fierce resolve to be there for him, and joined him in eternity a year to the day of his death.
During my visit, as we were washing dishes and looking into the back yard from the kitchen window, Grandma mentioned that still on her gate was the mark left during the Depression by hobos. Their house was not too far from the train tracks and hobos who went out seeking work to provide money for their families would stop by looking for food and lodging. Depending on the reception they received, the hobos would carve signs into the fences to indicate to those who would follow, whether a knock at the door would do them any good. I don’t know as the link is a definitive list of symbols, but it gives an indication of things which were important to this traveling group of unemployed.
Grandma was proud of her sign. Several visitors told her it meant, “If you will exchange some honest labor, this is a kind house and you will be treated and fed well.” That’s a good reference in anyone’s book.
In the current recession/depression, depending on who’s analysing, we are amazingly focused on what government can or cannot do for us. Not only that but in looking back and learning from history, we debate the merits or pitfalls of governmental actions in the 1930’s, forgetting the contributions and the spirit of the American citizens.
Let us make a pact, a determination that what has always made this country great, can help her rise again. Let us not sit with our hands out, nor encourage others to stick out theirs. Instead, let us encourage others by not only words, but in the helping of our neighbors. If you see a need, figure out if it is possible for YOU to help. Barter, give, offer, exchange.
At the end of this financial reset, hopefully the sign on your gate will be, “Help given; treated well.”