If poverty is a help to right living, then this girl was a saint.
I’ll call her “Sharon”. She lived out in the country near us, in a rental cabin meant for hunters. Termite-infested, cold in winter, hot in summer, wet during rains, it provided only privacy for Sharon’s family: her jobless parents and her little sister.
When, after my second son arrived, the carry-in meals were too much food for us, we passed some of it on to this poor family. They returned every single one of those empty Cool-Whip cartons, spotlessly clean. The only time they ever asked us for money, it was for food, and when Sharon’s mother had finished shopping, she brought me the change she had not needed.
Sharon was trying hard not to become a dropout and to keep away from the problems inherent to youth those days. It was easy for me to like her quiet and confident ways. Although there was about ten years difference in our ages, she showed me the kindnesses of friendship and sometimes would visit with me over the phone. She always ended each call by mentioning some difficulty she or her family had encountered and I counseled her briefly. Only after I converted her plight into a prayer request, would she say good-bye. How that impressed me!
Sharron married right after high school and soon was expecting her first child. She still called me occasionally and eventually asked me to visit at the new house her teen husband had built her. What a building! Constructed totally of 3/8” plywood, top to bottom, in and out, and walls painted in the latest style – with a feather duster. It was too hot in there for me, but the small wood-burner was kept at a low roar for the baby’s warmth.
One day I answered my door to find Sharon standing there with something to give me. She said they had to move and wanted to tell me good-bye. On the porch floor beside her stood a diminutive table her husband had made of scrap lumber, mostly 1×1’s. It was as simple as a plywood house, but well-made and painted with a feather duster.
How incredible that Sharon, so poverty-stricken, could even consider gifts for others! It almost brought me to tears.
I have loved the story and the person behind that small gift for a long time. It served well as a fern stand, outdoors when the weather was mild, and indoors when it was too hot or cold for ferns. It soon needed repainting and always bore the colors of the exterior of our houses, wherever we lived. I kept it proudly on display right by the front door and often told the story of this gift.
If you are thinking you’ve already read this story here, before, you’re correct. Oh, BUT – there is a new twist in the ending. Before, I had said what I thought was true, that it had finally sort of decomposed in the ensuing 30 years, but I was wrong. The little table still lives! While visiting my oldest son, not long ago, I spied it on the deck behind his house, still holding up, still holding potted plants, and I (TADA!) photographed it for you all to see: The lovely little table from “Sharon”.