I've found myself fascinated with the era of the Great Depression this year, probably because the current Great Recession has brought so many unforeseen changes to my own life. During my morning walks, I've listened to everything I could find about Franklin Roosevelt. I've thought a lot about the town I grew up in and how it was reconfigured. And more than anything else, I've considered my own family and how their lives and circumstances have shaped my own. Which brings me to my dad, a little boy during those hard times; quite elderly today.
I thought I'd start this off by sharing a picture of him. Little did I know when I started looking through my file of old family photos that I'd find this one. It perfectly captures this story, though when he shared it with me last Thanksgiving, he admitted I was the very first person he'd ever owned up to it about.
Dad told me that as a little boy, there was great excitement in town when the WPA crews came in to begin work on local improvement projects. For the east end of town, that meant new sidewalks on every street. And for my dad, it meant a summer of watching impressive, hardworking young men dig the frameworks and run the paving machinery. He followed them everyday; the work, the progress and the machinery were all fascinating. One day though, he got too close and one of the men yelled at him to stand back. He tried to keep out of the way, but couldn't help inching nearer and nearer. Then suddenly a belt snapped on one of the machines and whipped out to catch dad on the leg of his overalls. His leg was cut and his overalls were torn. The workers stopped, cleaned his leg, then sat him down for a cold drink. The funny thing is, at the end of the day, he never mentioned it to his mother, for fear of the scolding he'd receive from her. Over 70 years later, and I was the first one he ever told. But what he remembered more than anything was the hard work, the camaraderie and the kindness of those men to a little boy without many prospects.
.I feel so lucky that my dad shared this with me. The wisdom behind it is that kindness can be given without cost and will be remembered for a lifetime, but it must be passed on. I love you, Dad!