My Mother and Philo of Alexandria
In the home where I grew up, one of the non – negotiable values was: always be nice. No matter what, be nice. Even though my mother didn’t know or use the quote, “Be nice to every person you meet, for each one faces a great battle,” (Philo of Alexandria), she always lived it. My mother would repeatedly say, “You never know what a person is going through. Be nice to them.”
Whitey and the Locked Cupboards
My sister had a classmate named Whitey. He was a great athlete, very popular, with a winsome personality. He had a difficult home life. His mother Vi was trying her best to provide for the family as a single mom.
One time, in my third grade year, my mother took me with her to deliver a sack of groceries. I will never forget being in that kitchen. It was the first and only time I have ever seen padlocks on the cupboards. Every single one of the cupboards was locked. The silver Master padlock hanging from each cupboard door was astounding to me. We got to the car and I asked my mother why there were padlocks on the cupboards and she said, “Vi is troubled and she doesn’t have enough food so she locks up what little food she has.”
There were many days when the only food Whitey had to eat was at school lunch. My sister befriending Whitey made a powerful statement to me. I have often wondered what happened to Whitey. I cannot imagine growing up in a home with locked cupboards and without a key to access the food.
Fred’s Freezer Full of TV Dinners
While my mother lent a hand to Vi and my sister looked after White, my job was to check on Fred. All through my middle school years, every single day. Fred lived by himself in a modest trailer home. He did not have air conditioning and the furnace couldn’t keep up when the winter chill fell to 20 to 30 degrees below zero, with a wind chill factor double that number. My mother asked me to spend a few minutes every single day to make sure he was still alive.
Fred always wore bib overalls and never had any teeth. He had one form of entertainment – his black and white TV. During the summer, Fred left the door wide open with a fan in the door. He had cereal for breakfast, and TV dinners for lunch and dinner. His freezer had nothing but TV dinners. He ate the same thing, at the same time, every single day. What a life! But, my mother would remind me, Fred is a person who deserves dignity and respect as a child of God.
When Fred died, my mother and I were the only ones, besides his one niece, who attended the service. The pastor quoted the promise from Jesus as recorded in John’s Gospel, chapter 14. “In my Father’s house are many mansions. If it were not so, would I have told you I am going to prepare a place for you?…” The pastor said, “Fred, was nearly homeless. Now he lives in a mansion.” A sermon I will never forget and a promise I will always believe.
The Wisdom from Wibaux: Always be Nice
The Wisdom from Wibaux is to always be nice. You never know the battle each one is facing. I am deeply grateful for how my mother told us to honor the dignity of every human being, no matter how rich or poor, no matter how attractive, how smart, how successful, how powerful.