The Ballad of Thirty Cents

13 10 2009

One of the greatest influences on my life was my Great Aunt Pearl. In this somewhat active life, I have had opportunity to meet individuals who have made their mark in fields ranging from politics, entertainment, business and industry, education, theology, science, writing, and culture, etc., many with vast contributions to society and from whom I personally emulate numerous ideologies and positions that I hold to. Of this collection of teachers and mentors, the grand lady of the mountains, Aunt Pearl still stands head and shoulders above the rest by what she poured into this man’s life by example and the many wonderful stories she illustrated in words that would paint vivid pictures in my mind. I believe of the many she related, the most impressionable was one that I titled simply “30 Cents.” During the depression years of our country, the majority of the population found themselves in an impoverished state with the grand people of the Appalachian region hit hard by the decline in coal mining, the major source of employment for many. During this era Aunt Pearl and Uncle Price, who were newlyweds, were penniless and had to rely on any means possible to survive. Anyone who knew Pearl also knew that she prided herself on her ability for self-sufficiency. One the main ways, as she and so many did at this point in time, was to raise a garden. I have always believed that the adage of the person with the green thumb was a portrait of my Aunt Pearl. She always grew beautiful gardens back in Ohio that were the largest and most fruitful of anyone around us. And back in the late ‘30’s, living in West Virginia; Pearl seemed to have the same knack knowing that when canning season came, she would be able to put up enough food to last them into the next growing season. I believe that Pearl told me that it was sometime around 1940 when she had grown the best garden she had ever put out and was very delighted with all that she and her husband, Price, would have to yield. One problem stood in the way of this harvest and that was the preservative that was needed to go into the jars to ensure that the food would not spoil after it had been canned. Pearl knew exactly how much she would need and how much it was going to cost, which seemed like a fortune to her at that time—30 cents. Because she could not find work and Price was not able to, money was something that they had very little of and very seldom. When relating this story, she emphasized how she knew that the only answer was to be found in earnest prayer so she had cried out to the Lord saying, “Lord, I know you didn’t give me all this, just to have it spoil. Please send me 30 cents.” When she finished her prayer, she began thinking of a few places where there might be a little change. So the search began—in old pocketbooks, coats, trousers, behind furniture, down in furniture, every crack and crevice that was in their house. This endeavor took up an entire morning and afternoon and when the pursuit was over, she sat down to count the pennies. There were 30. You would have thought that she would have got up and made a run to the store right then to get the precious preservative, but she could not. She sat there the rest of the evening crying and giving praise to her Lord and Savior for how rich He had made her. I’m reminded of Philippians 4:19, which says, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Through my childhood years, I came to know this story very well as Pearl would relate it to me on a numerous occasions, not with the purpose of telling me how hard life was—and it truly was—but for a two part lesson in life. First, never take anything that you have for granted no matter how small and insignificant it may seem—even as little as a penny. The second and the most important that she wanted to drive home to me was to always remember how much God loved me and if I would just trust in Him, He would never fail me or forsake me. Pearl would relate this to the story in the Bible of the 30 pieces of silver, which at that time was a very large amount of money; that after Judas had received it, became completely worthless to him because of what it represented. God blessed Pearl by giving her 30 pennies and she was always thankful and gave praise to Him. If you ever have the privilege to visit Princeton, West Virginia, make a point to stop at the grave site of this beloved saint. You will be able to sits on the side of a hill looking out at the mountains that Pearl cherished so deeply. If you have a pen knife, dig one inch from the bottom right hand corner of the gravestone and you will find 30 cents that I placed there many years ago. I try to dig them up and hold them whenever I am there. When I hold these coins in my hand, it is a reminder not only of how much God blessed Pearl’s life, but how very much she blessed mine and all those with whom she came in contact. She truly blessed us with a wealth that far exceeds anything many in this world could understand as riches. May your riches in life go far beyond worldly treasures. Blessings to you and your loved ones Johnny