When I was perhaps five years old, my mother and I attended an auction of some neighbors and mom bought a rather large box of old pictures. I asked her who the pictures were of, were they some of our kinfolks? No, they were the kinfolks of the people whose stuff was being auctioned. I wondered why Mom would want pictures of people we didn’t know. The next day she took me by the hand, held the box of pictures in her other arm, and we went to the people who had been our neighbors and were now residents of the County Poor Farm. She gave the pictures back to the people to whom they meant so much. I asked her why, “Why did you do that Momma?”
Her reply was simply, “Because it was the right thing to do.”
We often came home from school to find food sitting on the table and Mom would watch us like a hawk to make sure we didn’t touch it. Then she would gather up however many of us it took to transport the food to whomever she was giving it to. Someone’s loved one had died, someone was sick in bed and couldn’t prepare food for her family, someone was too busy with harvest to have time and energy to prepare food for the family, or whatever reason there was, Mom was such a blessing by providing a meal when it was most needed. And I remember asking why we were carrying food to others.
Mom would simply say, “Because it was the right thing to do.”
My Sunday School teacher was relatively new in town and was a widow with two sons. I was twelve years old and Mom told me to invite her to Sunday dinner after church. So when Sunday School was over I invited Mrs. Valentine to dinner. She asked me if my mom knew I was asking her and I assured her that Mom was the one who told me to ask her. So Mrs. Valentine came for dinner and was surprised that her two sons were also there. Mom had told my brother to ask the boys to lunch and he had. Mrs. Valentine knew her sons were going to eat at a friend’s house but didn’t know she was going to the same place.
When I asked Mom what made her invite the Valentines to dinner she simply said, “It was the right thing to do.”
As a teenager I saw my mom wear herself out sitting up nights with a neighbor who was at the point of death. I could see how hard on Mom it was to keep losing sleep and asked her why she kept doing it.
She just smiled and said, “It is the right thing to do.”
When my mom passed away, someone came to me at her visitation and said to me, “You probably don’t remember me but I’m the grandson of the old people you mother and you visited at the Poor Farm. My grandparents never quit praising your mom because she gave them their box of pictures that contained so many memories for them and was practically their only consolation during their years living on the Poor Farm.”
Another lady brought some delicious food to the house to help feed us while we prepared to bury our mom and then the next day after we buried Mom we buried my only sister. The lady told us of how our mom had fed her family during a very difficult time and she was so pleased to be able to do something she knew would please Mom.
That Sunday School teacher? Mom had heard whispers about her that she wasn’t truly a “widow” but was just saying she was to cover up having two children. She was about to be asked to resign her position and no one in town was friendly toward her. Mom got acquainted with her and introduced her to others who found out what an intelligent, caring, and yes, truly widowed woman she was and friended her too. She said my mother was the kindest woman she had ever met.
The granddaughter of the man Mom set up nights with told of how her own mother was worn out from caring for the old man through the day, couldn’t afford to hire a night nurse, and Mom heard of the need and volunteered for night duty. It made it possible for the family to keep the old man out of a nursing home as he had requested. They never forgot Mom’s generous help and what it meant to all of them.
I was sixteen when a teacher at my school was moving away. I told Mom how I felt about her and she told me when class ended that day I needed to go to that teacher and tell her what I had told Mom. So I did. I have no idea now exactly what I said to the woman but she came into a store where I worked thirty some years later and when she saw who I was she asked me if I remembered what I said to her. I had to admit I didn’t remember and she didn’t tell me. But she did say she had never forgotten the words I said that day and there was no way she could make me understand what they had meant to her.
I had told her what I was thinking because Mom encouraged me to do so and told me it was the right thing to do. Words I couldn’t remember meant so much to a woman that they still remained with her and gave her a good feeling thirty some odd years later. So it must have been the right thing to do.
Don’t ever underestimate the power of doing the right thing. Sometimes, it’s the only gift life gives you and the only gift you can give another.