Linking Arms Today: Regenerating the Character-Building Legacy of 1947 Family Crisis

Linking Arms Today: Regenerating the Character-Building Legacy of 1947 Family Crisis

Comments, calls, notes and emails after last week’s Recalculating blog including from our children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren and siblings inspired this follow-up. My siblings encouraged me to revisit the regenerating character-building that happened so simply when accompanied by calm acceptance without complaint, criticism or apology.

Our son, Roger, was impressed to learn that the Christmas our Dad deserted us, our older sisters, Shirley and Jane,18 and 20, working full time in Columbus, put their meager money together and brought Christmas to us. Decorated Christmas tree and gifts. Brother Mac said he still remembers the plaid shirt the girls brought him.

“Ruthie,” John urged, “Tell in your blog how important the church was for us.” Memories of that first Sunday are still vivid. Mom’s sister, Hazel, invited Mom to visit their church. We asked no questions. We just got ready.

Uncle Royal and Aunt Hazel picked the five of us up in their shiny black Packard for EUB Sunday School and church. As visitors were introduced it seemed that there was a McRoberts in every class. We were welcomed as though we were related to everyone in the church. And that same Sunday evening we were back for youth Bible study with Libby Axline. Gladys Wagner who directed the Sunday night hymn-sing invited we three teens to join the youth choir for evening worship. Little did we know the treasure trove that awaited us. More about the church later.

Our personal world changed drastically in the next few days. As our family crisis unfolded, Mom’s brother, Freddy, and his wife, Lurabelle gently led Jane and John to a personal faith in Christ. They eagerly passed on what they experienced to Mac and me.

Our country family had been involved in once-a-week church but hadn’t fully understood what it meant to know Jesus personally. I remember the deep peace that I felt the next morning. I was aware that I had spiritual needs and was struggling with the loss of Dad with whom I was especially close. Aunt Lurabelle gave us devotion books to get us started on our new spiritual journey. This new relationship of walking daily with Christ influenced how we spoke, behaved and cooperated. Growing in Christ together provided a double bond for us which continues to be strengthened even as we grow older.

Mother, who hadn’t been employed outside the home for 20 years, found a job to support four children and herself making $18 a week at a filling station a fifteen-minute walk from home. For the first time, we kids linked arms while we dreamed of ways to improve our living situation which ultimately created a living legacy.

“Ruthie, remember how we fixed up that little house?” my older brother, John, prompted again. Mac became the water-carrier getting it from a neighbor’s outdoor pump. He had to make several trips a day. John dug a drain from the faucet-less sink so we didn’t have to open the back door every time to dump a dishpan or wash basin of water. John and Mac put in a garden. Mac reminded me that he was the mule and pulled the plow.

Mac got a job as a caddy, saved his money to buy white house-paint and proceeded to paint it by himself. Then, he purchased shutters. We were so proud of our freshly-painted and shuttered house. The boys restored the yard, discovered buried walk slabs and created a drive way. Don’t’ feel sorry for us. We didn’t. Working together is excellent therapy. We learned family cooperation.

Outhouse custodian became my project and I took much pride in keeping it sparkling clean with notes posted for others to keep it nice. With Mom employed, I was primarily in charge of kitchen chores and keeping tabs on six-year-old David.

John shared how he got a job. Uncle Freddy suggested he try Albers grocery store. So, John rode his bike across town to apply for a job. The manager said, “We don’t need you.”  Uncle Freddy advised him to go back the next day, which he did. Same results. Uncle Freddy said “Go one more time”. John was hired he learned patience and perseverance.

An after-school washing, ironing and cleaning job for a neighbor along with babysitting jobs on Friday and Saturday nights provided income for me. I, as all of us, was responsible for buying clothes, shoes, school supplies, snacks and upkeep of our bikes. Entitlement played no role.

On Saturday, Mom and I carried baskets of laundry over to Grandma’s—a 5-minute walk--and used her wringer washing machine in the basement. We hung the clothes on lines in Grandma’s yard. While the clothes dried, we’d walk down the hill to catch a bus to town to do any necessary shopping. On the way back we’d take the clothes down. Then, we’d share the 2 or 3 hours of ironing. Back then, we ironed all clothing, including underwear, pillow cases, sheets, cup towels—everything. I learned the value of sharing the load. Not only was Mom my bed partner and companion, but she became my best friend. Being thrown together like that became a marvelous bond that I cherish to this day. Now, back to Tyler church.

The pastor, introduced to us as Papa Tuttle, indeed became a father figure for us. Because he loved and respected young people, he was never too busy to answer questions and did everything he could to involve youth in every service. We soon assisted with taking up the offering, leading the singing, or offering special music. John soon sang in a quartet. The members of the church as far I knew never wondered where our dad was. No one asked questions we would be embarrassed to answer. We experienced unconditional love.

The volunteer adult choir director and youth director, Edith Gaynor, patiently led us. Youth group involved sharing devotional lessons, taking trips, having parties, leading youth services and cooperating with other local youth groups, church camps and much more. She was a marvelous encourager. My, how we loved her!

We attribute to Tyler EUB leaders for sound foundation in teaching us how to lead as we chose careers in ministry.  All three brothers are retired Methodist ministers; I served with my Baptist pastor husband. The youth of the late 40s and 50s still maintain viable friendships today.

Parents, provide your children with a spiritual outlet where they can learn, worship and work with kids their own age and older people as well. Let your children learn the delight in reaching out to the community in service of some kind. Building character hinges on what your children see in you as well as exposure to the kind of leaders you want your children to become.

Dealing with the adjustments caused by the Covid-19 virus pandemic creating havoc, anxieties, lives lost, jobs and businesses gone, restrictions, deprivations and uncertainties involving school closings, either too much family or no visitors, food lines and more translates to building character before the watchful eyes of the younger generation. A crisis not only reveals character but also spiritual needs. Take advantage of all that you observe. We thank God for our 1947 family crisis.

Build bonds during the current dilemma; try using Behavioral Modification; praise what you like; ignore what you dislike. Remember to use non-offensive “I statements”. Think before you speak.

Verses for encouragement:

“Praying…that you will be filled with His mighty, glorious strength so that you can keep going.…always full of the joy of the Lord.” Colossians. 1:11 TLB

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus, Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor so that you through his poverty might become rich.”

II Cor. 8:9

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” II Cor. 1:3-4.