Hard times. At some point or another, we’ve all experienced them. Living paycheck to paycheck, dodging bill collectors, mending clothes and pinching pennies — whatever our hardship may be, we do what we can to make it through.
And during these difficult times, there’s just one thing that can strengthen and comfort us, and that is love. Whether it be from family, friends, or a random stranger, little acts of kindness can go a very long way.
However, sometimes these kind acts can come in surprising and mysterious forms, and though many of us might not ever be so lucky as to receive such a generous and anonymous gift, we’ve all been touched by another’s kindness in one way or another.
But of all the kind deeds I’ve ever heard about, the story you’re about to read might be the most touching and beautiful of them all.
In September 1960, I woke up one morning with six hungry babies and just 75 cents in my pocket. Their father was gone. The boys ranged from three months to seven years; their sister was four.
Their Dad had never been much more than a presence they feared. Whenever they heard his tires crunch on the gravel driveway they would scramble to hide under their beds. But he did manage to leave $15 a week to buy groceries.Now that he had decided to leave, there would be no more beatings — but no food either.
If there was a welfare system in effect in southern Indiana at that time, I certainly knew nothing about it. I scrubbed the kids until they looked brand new and then put on my best homemade dress, loaded them into the rusty old ’51 Chevy and drove off to find a job.
The seven of us went to every factory, store and restaurant in our small town. No luck. The kids stayed crammed into the car and tried to be quiet while I tried to convince who ever would listen that I was willing to learn or do anything… I had to have a job. Still no luck. The last place we went to, just a few miles out of town, was an old Root Beer Barrel drive-in that had been converted to a truck stop. It was called the Big Wheel.
An old lady named Granny owned the place and she peeked out of the window from time to time at all those kids. She needed someone on the graveyard shift, 11 at night until seven in the morning. She paid 65 cents an hour, and I could start that night.
I raced home and called the teenager down the street that baby-sat for people. I bargained with her to come and sleep on my sofa for a dollar a night. She could arrive with her pajamas on and the kids would already be asleep. This seemed like a good arrangement to her, so we made a deal. That night, when the little ones and I knelt to say our prayers, we all thanked God for finding Mommy a job.
And so I started at the Big Wheel. When I got home in the mornings I woke the baby-sitter up and sent her home with one dollar of my tip money — fully half of what I averaged every night.As the weeks went by, heating bills added a strain to my meager wage. The tires on the old Chevy had the consistency of penny balloons and began to leak. I had to fill them with air on the way to work and again every morning before I could go home.