Posted by guest blogger Julian.
On a recent bright, sunny October day, our little town hosted the second worst President in living memory, Jimmy Carter, to present him with a humanitarian award for his 'Habitat for Humanity' projects. A sound bite which played throughout the day on the radio had him saying that the greatest lesson in life was that we should all give from our own abundance to those who have so little.
And I thought of the words of the Kenyan to Joe the Plumber, that we all do better when we spread the wealth around. Granted, it is easier when you spread someone else's wealth but regardless.... it occurred to me, could the liberals have been right all along? Could it be that we are all selfish and that we needed a strong government presence to remind us of our duty to give to others who have less?
As I thought of these things, I could almost hear distant voices singing about buying the world a Coke, and then, like a nugget of truth shining out from the dungheap that most of us call life, I saw the clear vision of a story from the past. I just call it,
Uncle Walter and The Kid
The young man - I just call him 'the kid' - was one of those lost souls one encountered in the early 60s. He was decent but just didn't know what life was all about or what to do with his, the angst of teen years and Southeast Asia looming like a mirage on the nearing horizon. So he spent one summer doing a sort of Walden Pond retreat thing, staying in a very shabby cabin on his Uncle Walter's little patch of land.
Now, Walt, who was really the kid's great-uncle, was in his 70s, with the lean, leathery look of a man who'd spent all his life working hard in the outdoors, except for a brutal stint in the War. Bald head, pale brown eyes haloed by round, wire rim glasses, and big, callused hands. The two of them would go walking through Uncle Walter's fields in the morning, just talking, then the kid would help with chores for the rest of the day, enjoying being apart from the ‘regular’ world. At day's end, the kid would sink into the old Army cot, exhausted in a good way and glad that he had been of help to his great-uncle. It was a good arrangement for both.
Each day, old Walt would pull on his faded coveralls, crusted Wellingtons and a cap, put a small plug of chewing tobacco in his cheek, an ancient Barlow knife in his pants pocket and his old Smith & Wesson 38 Special in the coverall pocket. He said it was in case he had to shoot a snake or wild pig - feral pigs did live in the area - but the kid knew the old man wouldn't use it since he really loved all the wildlife – the “varmints” as he called them - around his place. Walt was at peace with his life and his world
The day came when they were walking along talking about life and women and jobs and war and God and stuff, pretty much the usual fare, when suddenly, from the heavy brush, a large, wild-looking man appeared, red-eyed, breathing hard, reeking of sweat and alcohol - and waving a butcher knife. A very big butcher knife.
"Gimme your money you old coot, right now! I'm out of work, there ain't no good payin' jobs in this godforsaken place, I'm desperate and I WILL use this! You think I won't? Give me your money! Or I’ll cut you both, I'll carve you up like hog meat! I’ll DO it!! I SWEAR I will!! "
The kid wondered if Walt would draw the gun, but no...heslowly reached into a pocket and took out a rather damp roll of ones and fives, held together by a rubber band, and tossed it to the man.
"Here y'are, boy...hope things look up for you."
The man caught the roll of money and ran away, snapping brush as he bounded through the woods shrouding the path. The kid was moved. He looked at Walt with a new level of respect.
"Uncle, you could have pulled your gun, but you rejected the ways of violence; you looked past the knife, listened past the angry words. You saw another human being who was down on his luck and you helped him. I know you don't have any money left, but you showed compassion to a man in need. Gave him your last dollar. You are amazing! And I am proud of you! "
Walt looked at the kid, turned his head and gently spat a trickle of brown juice into the parched grass beside the dusty path.
"Well, son, I don't know about all that, but I can tell you one thing. If my firin' pin wasn't broke, I'd a blowed his damn head clean off 'fore you could blink an eye!".
Looking back I realize that there was a deep moral lesson in that day's events.
The lesson is, keep your powder dry and your weapons in good repair. And when you give to others, you do it from the goodness in your heart, not from the demands of others.
At least, that's what Uncle Walter would say.