Richest Family in Town
When my parents were in trouble at Christmas, their friends taught me the true value of kindness.
Igrew up on a 50-acre farm in the small rural community of Catawissa, Missouri, as the sixth of seven children. My parents often noted during meals how everything on the table except the sugar and flour came from the land.
Besides running the farm, Dad was also a carpenter. In the fall of 1970, he was working on a house when the ladder broke. His back was fractured in two places.
He stayed in the hospital for three weeks with his head and feet down, permitting his back to align correctly so the bones would fuse.
On Thanksgiving, Dad was still in the hospital. We always butchered hogs the day after the holiday, and that year my uncle showed up with a couple of cousins to help my three older brothers prepare our year’s supply of pork.
After Dad returned home, he was in a back brace and unable to work. I was too young to realize our family had no money coming in as Christmas approached.
One night we heard a car coming up the long driveway. Always alert to company, we kids were curious about who was visiting.
Peggy Phelan was at the door, holding an envelope stuffed with money. She told my dad she had collected money in the community and was there to deliver it.
He tried to protest but Peggy would have none of it. I can still hear her saying, “Archie, whenever someone’s baler is broke, you bale their hay. Someone passes away, Altha is cooking. It’s our turn.”
That evening, this 6-year-old understood what being a good neighbor was, and that because her parents were good neighbors, their kindness would be returned.
I learned later that my mom’s sisters all “adopted” one of us kids to help with Christmas, and we received gift baskets from more than one organization.
My parents were used to being the givers and not the receivers of such generosity. They had a bit of pride to swallow, but continued all of their lives to show us kids the value of kindness.