Living

The boy in the overalls

The other day I had something on my mind, a situation we had just encountered with someone we had sought to help.

When those things come to mind, I ponder. I turn them over and over thinking on human behavior and the stark facts of life.

Downhearted, I sank down on a step of the stairs in the foyer as I studied on the situation. My eye fell on a framed photo of a boy about 12 years old who is clothed in worn overalls and a raggedy dark blue shirt. He is sitting in a straight-backed wooden chair that is leaned slightly against the aging walls of a mountain shack.

And beside that boy is a large white yard dog, spotted with patches of black. There is nothing pretty about the dog except for the sweet light in its eyes, a similar light that shines in the boy's green eyes.

The boy loved that dog mightily for it was all he really had to love. What happened to the dog is such a horrific thing that I cannot write it for I cannot bear to see the words in black and white. Even now, my eyes fill with tears for both the dog and the boy who had only him to love.

That gets away from this story, though. We had just faced a cold reality of life and those people who want to be helped as opposed to those who take the help, learn nothing from it, appreciate nothing about it, then keep moving on looking for another handout from some other well-meaning souls.

I've always believed that it doesn't matter if we are used by these kinds of people, what matters is that we continue to help whenever we see a need and not become jaded or distrustful. Those who help will be blessed for their goodwill and those who abuse the good-heartedness will answer.

Sometimes, though, you don't see it coming.

To Tink I had said, "It just goes to show that some people can't be helped."

That much is as true as the first chapter of Genesis. Many people who have reached a certain age and yet continue to make the same mistakes with money or getting ahead are pretty much headed toward being behind when death calls. Sometimes, they are raised up in that kind of nothingness and can't find a way to escape it while, other times, they are raised better but choose it. That latter is a greater sin to my way of thinking.

Anyway, as I pondered what had recently happened, my eyes rested on that photo of the boy who was raised in despair and poverty. There were winters without heat or food and nary a summer with a pair of shoes. It was as much of a nothing beginning as anything you'll ever find. Education and church were equally avoided but that boy was taught to work hard and to look to no man for charity. Right or wrong, good or bad, it is the stoic way of those mountain folks.

I thought of the good and decent life that boy made for himself. He flew with the speed of a mighty eagle from that nest of desperation. He worked hard. He found the Lord or maybe it was the Lord who found him. At any rate, the boy set himself firmly on an uncharted path and discovered that by the grace of God and the workings of his own hands, he could turn nothing into something solid and admirable.

That boy was my daddy and as I looked at that photo taken during what he would always grimly recall as "Hoover days" but known to history as the Great Depression, I was reminded of what I have always known: Some people are capable of spring-boarding from a bad place into a good one.

Let us not forget that.

Ronda Rich, author of 'What Southern Women Know (That Every Woman Should),' writes the Dixie Diva column that appears in several newspapers.

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