By: Dennis Bates
My grandparents on my father’s side didn’t have a seventh grade education between the two of them. They grew up on different continents, my grandfather in Midland England and my grandmother in the Midwestern United States. Both their families were poor, but neither of them seemed to be bothered by it. I’m not sure my grandmother’s family even realized it.
And yet, every time I read Philippians 4:12 when Paul says, “I have learned to be content, whatever the circumstances,” I think of them. My grandfather worked as a laborer for the Rock Island railroad and took the shop train to work every morning and home at night. My grandmother walked several blocks so she could catch a bus down town to the dime store, where she did most of her shopping, but only if something was on sale. I often think how crazy she would have been to hang around K-Mart for the blue light specials, but she died before they we had one.
My grandfather never owned a car that hadn’t been owned by at least three other people first, but he was always proud of it. My grandmother always bought irregular clothes because they were cheaper, meaning of course there was something wrong with them. One of my favorite Christmas presents ever was the white shirt she bought me. I was so impressed that she actually got the size right once. Usually she didn’t. However when I took the pins out of it to try it on, it had one long sleeve and one short sleeve. I kept it for a long time because it was so grandma.
Every Christmas Eve we had dinner at their house and the meal was always the same, scalloped potatoes, butter beans, a salty, stringy Virginia ham, and black cherry Jello with Bing cherries. When I was young, I didn’t like Jello with fruit in it so my grandmother made a separate small dish of plain Jello just for me. Even when I got older and did like fruit in Jello, my grandmother insisted on making a special bowl of plain Jello just for me.
My grandparents and my parents are all gone now, but we have that same meal every Christmas Eve. However, we just have one bowl of Jello, and it doesn’t have cherries in it because my wife hates cherries.
Their house was smaller than a lot of garages these days, and there wasn’t enough room for everyone to eat in the kitchen so the kids ate on TV trays in the living room, but we thought it was a big deal because we never got to eat in the living room at home. Christmas Eve was a very special night, and we were always supposed to take a nap so we could go to Midnight church services, but we rarely did. Grandma’s was way too much fun to waste on sleeping.
When I read the other day about several Hedge Fund managers each making literally Billions of dollars last year as salaries, and I see the salaries that professional athletes make, not to mention CEO’s of companies that actually lost money, I feel sorry for them. Sure they made more money in one year than a lot of countries make. I won’t even quarrel about their “right” to make more money than the President of the United States.
I just wonder one thing: Are they as content as Paul, my grandmother and my grandfather were? I think I know the answer, so I feel sorry for them
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