1915

My dad was born in 1915 the same year as Frank Sinatra, Orson Welles and Ingrid Bergman. The cost of a gallon of milk was $0.36 , a stamp costs $0.02 and Babe Ruth hit his first career home run. Sometimes try as I may, it is still hard for me to comprehend that my Dad had lived a  lifetime before I was born in 1971.

He grew up relatively poor in Chicago with his older sister Bernadine, his mother Alma who ran a boarding house and his father George who was a machinist. Segregation was in full swing and my grandmother could have cared less about the laws regarding the separation of people defined solely by the color of their skin. She refused to make anyone use the back door or eat in separate rooms and if you didn’t like it you could stay somewhere else and she didn’t give a damn whose “laws” she was breaking. All were welcome and that meant all colors of God’s rainbow, many times if you simply had no place to go you were welcome. Everyone was going to eat well, and everyone was going to use the front door!  The family did not have much but they shared what they had with those who needed it. Sometimes this did not sit well with my grandfather and I remember the stories my dad would tell of just how much of a rebel my grandmother was in those days…in all of her days. My memories of her are much like  a mosaic for me, colorful jagged pieces of images and experiences I try to somehow fit together. I can see her face and there are two things I remember specifically about her.  First that she would let me stack all the canned goods from her cupboard in big pyramids and knock them down with wooden spoons, and I remember  just how she smelled, that warm clothesline clean smell of summertime. She was kind, and compassionate and could not understand or participate in the hatred of the world around her.

All of this background to tell you a story and to explain to a friend why I gave $5 to a woman begging on the streets.

I was probably around 6 or 7 when I went with my Dad to get painting supplies at John R. Green in Covington. There was a man who was dirty, disheveled, and whose pale gaunt face made him look sick , he was a little scary to me  begging for money outside the store. Sadness seeped from him.  When we left my Dad handed him a bill. I am sure my eyes were like saucers and my inside voice was screaming FIVE WHOLE DOLLARS! I didn’t really say much on the way home, but of course as soon as I got home I could not keep it to myself so in front of my mom and my Grandmother I blurted out “Dad gave some dirty, sad  man “FIVE WHOLE DOLLARS” little did I know that would start a whole lotta trouble as my mom’s mother was not on the same page with my Dad when it came to social issues. In her mind my Dad was an idiot as that man was just going to “drink it away”. I was upset and began crying because everyone was mad. I went to the backyard where my Dad had gone out to his workshop in the garage, he lifted me up on the old planked bench dancing with fresh wood shavings and kissed the top of my head. “Now I don’t want you to be upset and I am going to tell you why. You listen to me because this is very, very important. I know your Grandmother didn’t like that I gave that man money but sweetie we can’t worry about what he does with the money, maybe he bought himself some food because he sure looked hungry to me, or maybe he wasted it away but we only have to answer for what we do in this world, how we act, and how we treat others. It’s your most important job, remember that.”

It is one of the most important things anyone has ever said to me. Do I fail sometimes and judge others? Yes. Do I always show my best self? No, not by a long shot. I do however try to make the best possible choices and when I don’t it doesn’t take me long to reflect back to what my Dad taught me and try to do better the next time.

He was born in 1915 but he was way ahead of his time.

 

 

 

7 Comments

  1. Linda Troy says:

    Hi Lori,

    I just had a chance to read a few back-posts. I love this one and love your dad’s philosophy. Also your grandmother’s. What a blessing to have them in your life.

    Gentle thoughts to you tonight.

    Linda

  2. Moody says:

    Your dad sure was an amazing man! And he taught you well.
    You try your best, and even though you may not always succeed, you keep trying. You keep helping. In any which way you can.
    You are reaching out and touching people, helping people, through your volunteer work at the petfood pantry. Many people love you for that, in their own special way.
    You are reaching out and touching people with your work for Recycled Doggies, helping people find that one pet they were looking for.
    You are reaching out and helping us, those silly people who visit your blog and follow your journey, read your stories and cry hot and salty tears over stuff they’re not even involved in.

    You are doing a lot of good around you, Lori and I wish there were more Lori’s in this world.

    I may have posted this already, but a while back, I gave this guy a pack of chocolate rolls. He was filthy, his beard utterly unkempt, his clothes were dirty, baggy and torn and he stood begging outside the small “market” (superstore but in a tiny location, they have everything you need, just not lots of it and hardly any choice). I saw him going in to get my lunch and I saw this pack of rolls, so I took it. It didn’t cost me much at all, but for this man, it meant he could eat to his hunger, maybe for the first time in days. I remember giving it to him and speeding away, fighting my tears. I don’t know what kind they were, but I could barely suppress them and if I hadn’t been in one of Brussel’s largest train stations in the middle of rush hour, I wouldn’t have fought them at all.

    It felt good to do good.
    It felt good to be able to help.
    And maybe I only helped “a little”, I’m sure it meant a lot to that poor guy. Most people just walked past him, ignoring him or giving him a nasty look. I had seen him a few days prior, going through the garbage bins, looking for food or something to drink, shaking cans of soda to see if there was anything left in them. I also knew giving him money wouldn’t do him any good, he probably wouldn’t be allowed into any shops to use it. So I gave him something I knew he could use. And I guess I gave him more than just some food. I gave him attention. Even if it was just a little. I didn’t ignore him. I didn’t act as if he were dirt on the floor. I gave him an existance. Even if that only lasted a moment.

    You do that every time you work the pantry.
    We should all give the poor, old, dirty beggar “a whole five dollars” at least once in our lives.

    Your father is a saint and you are a saint’s daughter.

  3. Veronica says:

    Your Dad and his mother were amazing people and we can all learn from their “do not judge, be kind” attitude.

    I have heard that the first sign of a dying society is the loss of manners toward one another. I would add the loss of kindness to that list and it gives me great hope that you are continuing the legacy of your familie’s kindness. I hope it inspires all of us to do so.

    • dogl2324 says:

      Even though I don’t always succeed it is what I always strive for….kindness. Nothing else like it, both to give it and to receive it. Does not cost anything, and yet it can make the most amazing changes in people, situations, animals, and the world.

  4. Shera says:

    Your Dad was an amazing man! I wish we were all more like him.

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