If you are reading this, I can reasonably assume that you are beyond Jr. High/Middle School age, and if that's the case I can also reasonably assume that you've been taught at least some modicum of history involving America's Great Depression of the 1930's. Besides reading or listening to how dire those times were, you would also have seen photos of those times - of the men, women, and children who suffered want and woes. Those were hard times.These are hard times, too. It may not look as bad now as it did then, but we are not so much an agrarian society as we were then, and the false facade provided by credit cards have masked the dire difficulties that many people live in today. This morning on the radio, embedded in the newscast, was a foreclosure statistic for our area. Currently, as many as 1 home out of 125 are in foreclosure. That's a lot of homes. That's a lot of families.
It has been 17 months since John lost his job. In all that time we've not had income enough to cover our living expenses, but we did have sizable savings tucked away and things are beginning to look up in the employment department. So, we've been able to keep our home, have lived carefully, and have watched the hand of God help us again and again.
Yesterday, I was at the gas station filling my tank with my weekly allotment of gas when a man approached me. Now this gas station is very public and very popular since it has the lowest prices in our area, so I wasn't afraid of him since so many people were there. This man came up carefully and reluctantly, and said, "We're from Grassland. We lost our home in the flood. Things haven't worked out and we're trying to make it down to Shelbyville to live with my in-laws." He paused. Now I've seen a lot of pan-handlers in my lifetime, but there was a kind of pain in this man's voice and eyes that I'd not seen before - at least not in real life. But, then I remembered those Depression-era photos of broken men and women and realized that this was what was standing before me.
"I don't do this kind of thing, but I have to now. We have about 40 miles to go and our tank is empty. Do you have a couple of dollars to spare? I thought maybe I could borrow a little here and there." His voice was choked and tears were brimming in his eyes. If he was a fake, he deserved an Oscar. But the pain in that man's face was as obvious as the hard tan and worn clothes that he wore. His wife sat in their small car parked at the curb looking straight ahead.
I told him that I understood what it was like to be in the middle of a hard time, that we'd lost our income, that God had provided for us, and of course I had a couple of dollars to share with him. He dropped his head in humiliation and expressed his thanks with profuse apology. As I went to check my wallet, I discovered that all I had was a $10 and a $20 which had to last another 3 days. Remembering God's faithfulness to me, without hesitation I took the $10 and told him that I didn't have a couple of dollars but could give him $10. He almost looked frantic at that point and after stumbling for words said, "I'm not any sort of predator or anything, but if you'd like to give your address to my wife we will pay you back." He was pleading as he sought to distinguish himself from the average bum. Again I told him that God had provided, that I had enough to share, and someday he could help someone else out who was down on their luck. He took my hand and shook it, saying thanks only with tearful eyes. As I left, he and his wife were putting some gas in their tank.
I don't tell you this to brag on what I did. To the contrary, I look back and wish I'd given him the $20. My heart breaks for this family, and for all the families that find themselves in these kinds of straits. Time are hard. God is faithful.