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Books Are The Ever Burning Lamps of Accumulated Wisdom - Carlyle

I Remember Mama

I have traveled the avenues and the alleys of some of the greatest cities of the world. London. Paris. Rome. Madrid. Athens. Bombay. Hong Kong. Tokyo. I have seen beauty, and I have seen the grotesque. I have seen war, and I have seen peace. I have seen armies, and I have seen mobs. I have seen feasts and I have seen mass starvation.

I tell you this, not that you will think that I am a man of the world, but to explain that the product of living is to see the product of evil. Along the way you see both the harvest of good and the harvest of evil. You simply cannot be blind if you live very long. You can be insensitive, but you can’t be blind.

When I was only a boy, I learned about human need. My mother showed me what to do; and my father preached me a sermon about it. But it was during the great depression and we needed more than just sermons.

We lived only one block from the railroad tracks. I remember the address to this day. We lived at 326 E. Broadway in Enid, Oklahoma.

At least once a week and often once a day, someone knocked at our back door and asked for food. Young men came. Old men came. Some were dirty and some were clean, but they all stood there at the back door, looking mostly down at their feet, and they asked for food.

Mom always invited them to come in and sit at the kitchen table. Sometimes she apologized that she didn’t have much in the icebox, but they were welcome to it. She gave them whatever she had.

I remember feeling that some of these men were getting better food than we were getting, but mom always served it with a smile. She was a real pretty woman, and some of the men looked like they felt they were being served food by a queen.

I actually think that mom enjoyed feeding those poor sad men. She knew that somewhere there was a wife or mother who was wondering if they were getting enough to eat. She did her best to provide what she could as sweetly as she could.

She knew that the men would soon be catching a train to some other town. Perhaps they were trying to find a way home, but at any rate while they were in Enid, they would have full stomachs. I did not see as much as I should have in my mother’s acts of kindness. I wish I had been more alert.

Today my belly is full and it seems that it is so with everyone else. I can’t remember the last time that someone knocked at my door and asked for food. Perhaps it is because I live out in the country on a nice little lake. Everyone I know is well fed—too well fed.

No, I believe that there is still hunger, but our deep hungers have changed. Now, we hunger for something other than food, and our hungers are not satisfied by a good meal and a smile.

I believe that there are millions who have a deep hunger for friendship, and the satisfaction of that need cannot be met by knocking on someone’s back door. Some hunger deeply for meaning and purpose in life. Others have hunger for appreciation and personal recognition. Hunger is just as acute as it was during another time, only it has changed where it hurts.

I wish my mother was still around to open the back door and greet the needs of this day with her smile and generosity. She would sense just what is needed and give everything to them if she had it.

The lessons of the past have not lost their relevance. There is still need. Look in the eyes of the people you meet today, and give generously. There is need out there that the UNITED WAY can’t meet. Only you can meet it, at your own back door.