The Gift of Poverty

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”.

table

The dear little table

 

 

Have you every been unfriended? Learn how to cope and why it's important that we all be adults.

Been Unfriended?

People can be complicated.

Friendships can be messy.

Knowing more can be scary.

With the knowing, the deeper truths, and the closer expressions of concern, can come the fears, the denials, and the silence.

Been unfriended? Here's what to think, and why it matters!The dark days of friendship.

A couple of friends once asked me if my young teen daughter could arbitrate between their two teens. I could hardly believe my ears. The three of us were close, so I shared my many concerns and said no.

The ramifications were astounding: a seeming total breakdown in all communication.

They literally continued being friends to each other without me and my daughter.

Wow.

A full year later, we were all at an event at a park. One of these friends had a newly-minted, biggest-baddest car-of-the-year and asked me if I would enjoy taking it around the park with her.

The shock!

Still the idea of sitting behind all 4 million horses under that hood was too tempting and we took her for a spin at park speed: 5 mph. Ha.

It was glorious and just destroyed my mini-van, in my eyes.

However, what happened during that drive was more. Far more. This dear friend apologized. She said she was wrong. She had thought I was wrong but she saw differently later. She thanked me for my dedication to truth and to our friendship. I thanked her for the same two things.

We are still friends, the kind that can be apart for a year and then take it up like we were just days apart. Which we did.

This was deep.

This was asking advice on children and giving it.

This was disagreeing and staying cool for a year.

This was trusting an apology would fix it.

This was forgiving wrongs. Deep, deep, deep, like few, few, few friendships ever can be.

The ancients called these types of friendships leb in Hebrew and philos in Greek, implying core understanding, brotherhood. This friend would visit a friend in jail. This friend would give up a year of pleasure for a friend. This friend would help a relative of a friend, if asked; would party and rejoice at a friend’s joy. Read about it in Ruth 2:13 and John 3:29.

But it can backfire.

Big.

All people have at their fingertips the ability to do wrong. This is what we risk in every relationship, but the closer we grow, the more we risk.

The closer we are, the more accurately we can aim our weapons.

And, oh, the more it hurts.

This is a call for caution.

Some people are broken and do not know how to be a friend. Befriending them will always be a lopsided venture, more give than take, like dancing with someone who doesn’t know the steps. Befriending them will always carry risk. Befriending someone who might backfire is a noble calling, not a picnic.

As long as we remember each of us is able to fail, as long as we dedicate ourselves to befriending and not to collecting fun people, we can proceed. We can gently and lovingly share the truth in hope, not that the friendship will one day benefit ME, but that it will one day bring glory to God.

And that is where we all should be.

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