I grew up hearing unique and adventure-filled stories from a man who grew up in the land of the Hatfields and McCoys, Pike County, KY. He was my grandfather. He would rock in his chair, and I would sit and stare at him in astonishment of all the things he had to tell me. I wanted to know more and more about his life, and sitting at the foot of his chair was something I looked forward to when visiting.
I could tell you of the time he was 12 years old and bit by a copperhead, how he lay on the porch all night until he finally threw up (which was a sign the he would live), and how the doctor road through the night on horseback to see him. I could tell you how those scars felt on his old, wrinkly feet and how I took off his white tube sock and inspected them every time he told me his story. I could tell you of the time his head was split open by an ax and how his mother, in shock, tried collecting the pools of his blood in her hands to put it back into his head. I could tell you how they called the preacher instead of the doctor because they thought he would die. I could tell you how he described the old-time preacher’s prayers echoing off the hills in a time and place in which people wailed their prayers unashamed instead of whispering them.
However, the story I want to tell you came from a much quieter person. She grew up across the Tug River from Pike County in West Virginia. Her name was Rosetta. She was my grandmother. My grandpa found this rose in Ohio where he had moved for work. She had a rope tied about her waist for a belt and he knew he had found a little piece of home in the city. They married and moved to a tiny house in Columbus, Ohio.
It was in Columbus, a far less interesting place than the rough and wild Pike County, that my grandparents had settled down and lived with their first daughter, Nancy. Times were hard and there were a lot of people struggling to find work and put food on the table. My grandfather had a job, but they lived on very little money. This meager salary was something in which my grandmother was very thankful.
She would go to her kitchen, and make do with what little she had. Often, she would make a very simple bread out of flour and water. To make it more palatable, she would boil sugar and water on the stove until it thickened to make a syrup for the bread. This meal was common as it was often all they had.
My grandparents had a neighbor who lived alone with her child. I do not know anything about her husband to know if he had abandoned them or if he was dead, but she would show up at exactly the same time every day when she knew my grandmother would be cooking. She would knock on the door and say she was there just to chat and see how my grandmother was doing. My grandmother knew why the woman was really there, and she very kindly invited the woman in. She knew the woman had nothing to feed her baby and that the simple bread which was often all she had, was a feast to them. My grandmother, whom I called Mawmaw, would pick up the small child belonging to her neighbor and set her down at the table with her own daughter, Nancy, and she would feed them.
I was about 9 years old when my grandmother first told me this story as my mother and I sat on her couch. My eyes filled with tears as I listened to their struggles, and my heart warmed at the thought of my Mawmaw’s kindness. I could imagine how that little child felt at my grandmother’s table. I knew what it was like for her long, slender, tan hands to lift me up into a wooden chair or into her lap to eat.
I have also made that simple bread with sugar in my grandmother’s kitchen. It was the first thing I ever learned to cook at her house. She let me mix the flour and make a mess recreating the flat, simple bread. However, I did not know the story behind the simple recipe, and it did not dawn on me until years later as my mother described the story to me again. I thought it was something simple she had created for me to make since I was just learning to cook. I did not know that it was the bread in which they often lived on in hard times. It is the simplest, yet as the I reflect, it is the most special recipe that my family has passed down because it comes with such an important lesson of kindness and thankfulness.
This story carries another spiritual application as well. Have you fed someone in need before? The chances are, as a Christian, you come in contact with starving people every day. These are people who are spiritually starving. Many do not know how impoverished they truly are as they cling on to their own abilities or wealth for their security. Others go about life alone, hungry for purpose, and hurting. How sad it is that we do not share with them the bread of life, Jesus, in which they need so desperately. I encourage you today, that if you have nothing else to give to another, that you share that simple bread with someone else. Let someone know you care. Sit with them at your table. Many people come across our paths whom God knows needs to be fed the truth. Are you faithful to give it to them? When they knock on your door “just wanting to chat,” are your eyes open enough to see their needs, and the real reason they have come to you? They are hungry for Jesus. Let us be faithful to share Him.
“And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst,” John 6:35.
“Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me,” Matthew 25:34-40.
I dedicate this blog to my mother, Sandy; and my aunt, Nancy.