[Editor’s Note: My friend, David, showed me this article and I knew I had to share it with my readers. Not only does it provide a good Biblical message, but it’s a heartwarming story of a time long forgotten. It’s easy to idealize the past and forget about the hard times. Meanwhile, others abhor the past on principle, which is a miserable way to be. Instead, we should examine the times for what they are, as a historian. In the olden days, things weren’t perfect by any means. There were societal injustices that cannot be denied. Yet, there were also people of goodness and kindness with a vigorous sense of community, which is desperately needed in our cold, modern world.]
by David Ferguson
I was just three years old when we began living in the tiny country town of Bruce, Illinois back in 1964. We lived there for almost three years and in many ways it was very much like the fictional town of Mayberry, North Carolina [from the Andy Griffith television series].
Mayberry had a party line phone system with Sarah, the eavesdropping operator, and Bruce had its party line phone system with an operator named Nellie. When anyone received a phone call in Bruce, it rang in everyone else’s house, too. So you had to listen carefully to make sure you picked up on your “ring tone,” and not your neighbor’s.
Our phone number was 9 on 5, and our “ring tone” was two long and one short rings. And just as there was a strong sense of community and caring for your neighbors in Mayberry, the same was found in Bruce.
This was long before emails, instant messaging and texting, but people had relationships and interaction with one another with literal “face time.” To me as a very young child, it really was a magical place.
Looking back, I think I know why Bruce seemed so magical.
“Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another” (Romans 12:15-16a, ESV).
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those of the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9-10, ESV).
These passages were not just found within the pages of the Bible, they were lived by many of those who dwelt in Bruce. It was the neighborly love and caring and sense of community that brought out the ‘magic’ that was palpably felt. As a result, when a family moved there was a real sense of loss.
We were never a wealthy family, but it was not until years later I found out how difficult things were. My Dad was not working and he had no money to buy groceries for our family. Back then, being on welfare was not an acceptable option.
Yet, things had gotten so bad that my Dad pushed aside his pride and walked that half mile to the general store to beg the proprietor, Mr. Young, to let him buy some food on credit.
I know that had to be a very difficult walk for my Dad, but he did it anyway. When he arrived, something magical occurred: He found a $10 bill lying on the floor of the store.
I would be happy finding $10 today, but at that time that was a windfall. Now my Dad could have pocketed the money for himself, but that was not in his nature. He picked it up, walked to the counter, and told Mr. Young he just found $10 on the floor of his store. Instead of accepting the money, Mr. Young told my Dad, “It looks like that money is yours since you found it.”
And this is the true story of how my Dad was able to buy groceries for his family that week. Shortly afterwards, he also found full-time work as well.
I would not be surprised to learn that someone in that community had put the word out that our family was in dire straits and in need of food. Maybe someone had seen my Dad making that walk to Young’s General Store and knew what he was planning, alerting Mr. Young that he was on the way.
Maybe Mr. Young dropped that money on the floor. I do know that there truly can be ‘magic’ in the world if we all just simply choose to lead our lives as God and His Son desire, and love one another (John 13:34-35).
Store: Photo Credit