She was incredibly poor.
A girl I’ll call Sharon lived down the country road from our house, in a piece of rental property meant to be a hunters’ cabin. Drafty, leaky, and termite-infested, it at least provided some privacy for Sharon’s family: her unemployed parents and her 10-year-old baby sister.
When the church brought us meals after one of my children was born, and it was too much food for us, we shared it with Sharon and her family. I worried that they might not enjoy all those types of foods, but they assured us they loved all foods. Then they returned all those empty Cool-Whip cartons, carefully washed and dried. Only once did her mother ask for $25 for food, and when she had finished shopping, she brought me the change she had not needed.
Sharon was trying to finish high school and keep out of trouble, bless her. I enjoyed her calm and sure personality a lot. Although she was a teenager and I was near 30, she seemed bonded to me and would call me to chat, sometimes. Towards the end of each conversation she would mention some trouble she or a family member was having and we would discuss it for a few minutes. Only if I promised I would pray for her, would she end the conversation. That always touched me so.
Before long, she married and the young couple had their first child. She called me and asked me to come visit and see the house her teen husband had built for her. I was amazed at this building made of plywood, inside and outside, floors and ceilings, with the interior walls painted a pale blue. Sharon had actually used a feather duster dipped in paint to make fancy designs on the paint in the front room. A cast-iron wood stove in the center of the house cranked out more heat than I needed, but it was to keep the baby warm.
One day Sharon rang my doorbell and said she had a gift for me. She and her husband and baby were moving far away and it was her way of saying good-bye. There, on my porch stood a small table her husband had made. It was primitive, about on the order of a house made only of plywood, but it was sturdy and painted pale blue with feathery designs on it.
I could hardly believe that Sharon, in her poverty, would think to give anyone anything. It was so touching to me. I have cherished that little table for a long time, using it for a fern stand on the porch in summer and indoors in winter. It didn’t match a thing I had, but I wouldn’t think of parting with that incredible gift.