My parents were born in the early 20’s. There were many times when I was growing up that the conversation would turn to The Depression and The Dirty Thirties. My father grew up on a farm but only rarely did he talk about those experiences.
My city-living mother, on the other hand, would. People lining up at soup kitchens, what it was like for her parents to clothe and feed three young girls, rationing food. My grandfather was lucky because he was able to keep a part-time job and eventually was hired full-time when things got better. They also didn’t lose their home.
My mother would sometimes talk about the pet rabbit the three girls had that disappeared one day. Nothing was ever said other than “the rabbit escaped”.
It was years later that my mother realized what had probably happened. The rabbit became supper so that the three young girls could have some meat with their meal, as meat on a regular basis had become a luxury.
There was no safety net for people if they became unemployed, sick or widowed. People did what they could, took what jobs they could, all while trying to retain some dignity and hope for better times. People would try to help where they could but most people were in similar situations.
I recently came across an article on the Smithsonian website by Ted Gup called “A Yuletide Gift of Kindness” about an ad placed in the newspaper in 1933.
It was then that a mysterious “B. Virdot” took out a tiny ad in the Canton Repository, offering to help the needy before Christmas. All he asked was that they write to him and tell him of their hardships. B. Virdot, he said, was not his real name, and no one would ever know his true identity. He pledged that those who wrote to him would also remain anonymous.
Mr. Virdot sent cheques to 150 families. While it doesn’t seem like much, according to the article the $5.00 cheques that were sent out would be the equivalent of approximately $100.00 today. That act of holiday kindness helped many families to be able to get various necessities and gifts for their loved ones.
Here’s the article and you can see the connection between Mr. Virdot and Mr. Gup.
And, in the spirit of the article, something I read a long time ago. I don’t know who said it, so I can’t give proper credit, but sometimes we forget we have all been on both sides of the fence.
Sometimes we give, and sometimes we are given to, and both are honourable things to do.