The Poor House

   Nashville Tennessee was the city of my birth. We were country folks and lived on a small farm. Times were hard. The depression was in full bloom. When the soles of our shoes wore out, we cut out cardboard and put in them. Since I was the last of the seven children (Three girls and four boys), I was officially called, “My baby”. I hated it and in response I would always say, “I’m the youngest”.
    Grandpa lived with us. He was tall and thin and smoked a pipe. Being the youngest, I was with him more than the others. Since Grandma died, he seemed very sad. They had lived together most of their lives and had celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. Grandpa would say funny things like “Be true to your teeth or they will be false to you, by gum”. He wasn’t true to his and they were false. I tried them on one time but they didn’t fit over mine.
    One year we had a drought. No rain for our garden and the small acreage of corn and cotton didn’t make. I can remember it because my third birthday was right in the middle of it. Everyone in the house seemed sad.
    One morning before dawn, our two mules, Bess and Charlie were hooked up to the wagon. We were going on a journey and all the family was included. It had to be important because Grandpa was with us. The wagon was full and it took half a day to get where we were going.
    We came to a bluff. Dad called for the mules to stop. What I saw was pitiful. Even at my young age it looked scary. There were three old ugly buildings down on the flat. A crooked smokestack was emitting billows of white smoke. The buildings were either painted black or had never been painted. There were no trees or shrubs or flowers, just those three buildings. It looked like the very place you would never want to be. No one spoke. We just sat there for a long moment.
    In all my innocence I said, “What’s that, dad?”
    He didn’t answer. Mother started crying and all the kids just turned their heads away.
    Finally Dad answered. “That’s the poor house, son, that’s where we are taking your Grandy.” For a moment everything was still and no one spoke. I had noticed that Grandy hadn’t said a word all morning. It was cold and he just sat under a blanket.
    “Is that where I’m gonna take you when you get to be Grandy’s age, dad?” My question was real and genuine. I didn’t understand. Dad just sat there for a long minute. Then all at once he called out to the mules in a loud voice, “Come around here, Bess, come around here, Charlie,” and with a snap of the reins, we began the journey home. A feeling of joy filled the wagon, and an inward cry of praise God seemed to be the unspoken words. Mother didn’t cry anymore and we got home about sunset.
    Grandy lived a while longer and then passed away. Yet during that time, when all the boys and Dad were in the fields, it was just Grandy and me, alone. He seemed to take a special shine to me in those final days and I listened to him and learned a lot. He was a very wise man. I couldn’t imagine life without him.
    What a wonderful story, but it never really happened to me. Tell it! You bet I do, for in it I found the mysteries of life. Relationships are vastly more important than what you can put on your table. You see, when I was a boy, every family took care of its own. Life has changed now, but I doubt if it is for the better.
    The apostle Paul wrote, “But if any provide not for his own, and especially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel” (I Tim. 5:8). Jesus said, “Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink or wherewithal shall we be clothed . . . but seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take no thought for the morrow, for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient to the day is the evil thereof” (Matthew 6:31-34).
    I remember my real grandfather. He was tall and thin and smoked a pipe. His influence on me continues to this very day. He was born in Nashville, and lived his life there. He was a faithful and true Christian. When I think of him I think of the simple writings; “Let me be a little kinder, let me be a little blinder, to the faults of those about me. Let me be when I am weary, just a little bit more cheery: let me serve a little better, those that I’m striving for. Let me be a little braver, when temptations bid me waver: let me strive a little harder, to be all that I should be. Let me be a little meeker, to my brother that is weaker; Let me think more of my neighbor, and a little less of me.”
    With the same letter, heaven and home begin; they dwell together in the mind. For they who would a home in heaven win, must first a heaven in home begin to find. Heaven in home begin to find.


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