(My mama and daddy didn’t forget)
It was dark as Virgil and Milly came in from the Western Kansas wheat fields. It was hard tact 1930s depression time. Milly lit the kerosene lamp as Virgil pulled the shades and they sat together on the edge of the bed, the only piece of furniture in the room. Virgil reached over and took hold of Milly’s hand and said:
“It is okay, sweetheart, God will make away.”
I want you to pay close attention here in 2018; this seems unbelievable with today’s TANF, welfare, food stamps, and Medicare and Medicaid, and minimum wage approaching $9.00 per hour. Virgil and Milly had been married at the First Christian Church in Great Bend. They had been in love for a long time but waited till they had steady work to get married. A farm family with large wheat fields in western Kansas hired them as kitchen and farm hands for $15.00 a week for both of them plus three meals a day. The bonus for working seven days a week, 14 hours a work day, was a single private room and outdoor bathroom. The caveat was one serving per meal and don’t get pregnant.
Virgil said, “Are you sure?”
Milly said softly, “Yes. I am two weeks late.”
Virgil reached over and put his arms around her and in quiet tones whispered to his weeping wife, “The wheat harvest is over, the repair to the equipment is about done, and I was expecting to be given notice that our job was over any day. As soon as it happens we will catch a bus back to Great Bend and save back the $10.00 for the birth of our first born.”
In 2018 it is hard to imagine those wages or the prices, but even more the work ethic and financial discipline to live as the American folk did during and just after the great depression of the 1930s. The biblical assignment to expect to work for whatever you expect to receive was almost universal. There was the understanding you needed to save for planned and unplanned future expenses. For months Virgil and Milly had had to work seven days a week and had been nowhere near a church but they had keep track of their tithe for when they returned to First Christian in Great Bend. The Thursday of the week this was written as we were working in the office, Louis brought in a couple in their 20s or 30s. There was a ring on her finger, very nice clothes, and she had on new shoes. They were deaf and dumb. Louis surprised me with his ability with sign language. They wrote for me that they needed food for the rest of the month. I was limited in fact finding, and since we had to close our care center, I had to turn them down. They were nowhere near starving, and here are the average financial facts for such a couple in America: SSI- $2,200.00 plus food stamp and full health coverage.
Why were they out of food on 18th of the month? I DO NOT HAVE THE ANSWERS. I have interviewed over the past decade hundreds of such people and have helped many. I have come up with a group of answers that are based on the BIBLE, and for most, mama and daddy forgot to teach them. We have two generations that believe the government, church, or family are responsible to house, cloth, and feed them, and what money they make is to go toward their free choices.
Virgil and Milly had nine more years of money and job-tight depression to face as a family. The wheat farm job over, they were back in Great Bend in the dead of winter. Milly was very pregnant with their first born. There was no prenatal care, no vitamins, no milk or mineral-rich vegetables. Virgil walked the streets looking for work, some days bringing home for ten hours work as much as a dollar. They existed on the universal life principles from the word of God: learn to work and enjoy it, learn proportionate tithing—giving to the Lord—as basic to earning money and be a person that saves for their expected and unexpected future expenses.
Hot July came, and Herb was born and Dr. Don Kendall was paid in cash. Herb was born with a broken back that had to heal on its own and Dr. Don did not believe he would live more than a couple of years. Then again, God knows those things.
As Kansas became a dust bowl and work was harder to get the Pinney family moved to Missouri and with saved dollars, they put a down payment on property of hardwoods that we timbered for the WPA, and a log cabin. There was a large fireplace for heating and a cast iron cooking stove for meal preparation. Four-and-a-half-year-old Herb was assigned firewood duty for the cook stove. If I wanted the family to eat the rabbits, squirrels and the cow peas from the woods (hunting and trapping were the ticket to meals), I needed to keep the wood box full. Dad was sure to teach me the family work ethic. By the winter days of early 1940 we were moving back to Great Bend as with the coming war the government was building an airport and wages were seventy-five cents an hour and time and a half for overtime. Dad had soon saved enough to buy a piece of land and start to finish a house on the property. To speed up the income for building, dad contracted with Purina Chow to raise rabbits and provide market-ready rabbits in wax-lined boxes ready for the new coolers in public markets. Dad and I (At 7, I was now a partner in the family business) were busy building hutches as WW2 hit and building suppliesot July camr and herb was born were rationed. We moved ahead. Since iron pipe was rationed we could not finish our water well, and I carried water in gallon buckets about a hundred yards from my uncle’s for hundreds of rabbits and our family. This was a morning and night job regardless of the weather. I laugh at sincere but inexperienced ministers that speak from John 4 that the woman at the well came for water at noon because the ladies shunned her. Believe me, a couple gallons of water goes in a hurry in housekeeping. If you carry home a couple gallons in the morning, you are sure to need more by noon. Besides, the whole town came out to the well to spend two days in a camp meeting at her word.
I remember my first paycheck: five dollars. Dad continued my education. I was instructed to set aside the first fifty cents for Sunday’s offering at church. With this came mama’s lecturing on biblical tithing.
On Monday morning mother took daddy to work then we went by the Post Office and got me my own government twenty-five dollar savings bond book and five ten-cent stamps to begin my systematic savings plan. I finished that bond book during the war and it matured while I was in college and was one reason I went through eight years of college with no college loans.
The Pinney family work ethic did not stop at the rabbit hutches or the water well. I remember the Maytag laundry machine and learning to sort the washing by white, light colors, and dark colors. Our first washing machine had an electric agitator but hand crank wringer to wring out the soapy wash water into the clear first rinse then into the second rinse, then to the laundry basket and out to the wire lines to dry. I got just as good of an introduction to the kitchen stove. Of course, heating and cooking was still all by fire wood.
All summer long, Sunday afternoon was wood cutting and splitting time. We would jack up the car and replace the rear tire with a tireless rim with a drive belt to a buzz saw. Then we pull the hand throttle on the car to the right RPM, then dad and I would use the buzz saw to cut the firewood to proper lengths, then we would use a wedge and a sledgehammer to split the wood to the right size. Thus, by the time I was in grade school, I had been taught the basics of Bible and the Pinney family life ethic. These included learning to work and enjoying your work, setting aside the first ten percent of your earnings for the Lord, and saving at least that amount.
Let’s come back to 2018. Since 1960 our government has spent billions of dollars on the war against poverty. We have succeeded in tripling the people on welfare. We will never solve our financial problems as long as mama and daddy forget or neglect to train their children with the proper work ethic. My main concern is in the church. I am worried that we’re not teaching our children to love to work. This includes loving, being a part of worship, and earning money to give to the Lord. I have watched our offerings, and with one exception of an older teen, the children are not given work to do at home to earn money to come to church excited about bringing an offering to the Lord. This is not the children’s fault. It is the elders’ job to teach, preach, example that giving to the Lord begins when we learn to walk. My blessing was that my parents never gave me an offering for church, but they provided me work at home and paid me so I would have an offering. Learning to give to the Lord begins in the parents’ home. If it does not, the preacher will have to argue with them about giving tithes and offerings. Please, mama and daddies, don’t forget!