Watermelon juice runs down my chin blending with the sweat that is pouring off of me. It is really hot today but I don’t mind. I try to eat all my frozen treat before it melts in the summer heat. Watermelon popsickles are one of my favorite things; I only get them on special occasions and today is one of those days.
Mrs. Ford came to our little rural church to invite all the mountain children to her house for a summer party. Mrs. Ford doesn’t go to our church but she said she was doing God's work by giving to the less fortunate. She attends the Heavenly Orchard Church, in town. It is a huge church with a big steeple, two organs and fancy padded pews. I’ve only been there once when our pastor took ill. It was beautiful and the sermon was okay, he told of God’s love then how we could prosper, by doing good deeds. I didn’t agree about doing good to earn prosperity thing though because you can’t earn salvation, that’s one thing my pastor always says. Salvation is a gift and I don’t think you can earn prosperity either. You do good because God wants us too, it’s that simple.
My church isn’t fancy, but I always feel God's presence. Our pews are rough and hard, but most the families up on the mountain pitched in to make them and decorate our small church. The ladies from the mountain all bring food every Sunday and we have brunch together after service. I’ve seen folks give to the less fortunate even when they barely have enough to get by. They do it out of God's love and expect nothing in return.
Today is Mrs. Fords doing good day, that’s what she called it when she had her church bus pick us up. They drove us to her big two story house, the bus stopped in her curved drive way and before any of us got out she gave us a few rules;
“I will be escorting you through the house, no wandering, stay with the group.” She paused eyeing us all. “After the tour of the house we will be serving up a special lunch and then you can swim in our newly installed pool.”
“I ain’t got my swim pant’s ma’am, do I swim in my unders?” one of the young boys asked, all of us children eagerly awaited her answer. Cause none of us brought anything to swim in.
“Certainly not!” She huffed like a puffed up toad. “I anticipated that already and purchased swim trunks for the boys and swimsuits for the girls, they are yours to keep. You will be shown where to change.” She paused for a moment then continued, “Oh and stay off the lawns, we just had them manicured. There is an designated area that you can play in; we will be having lunch there. Maisy, my maid will show you where that is. Remember, no running in the house. Okay, follow me; we are going to have such fun today.” Clapping her hands she led us off the bus.
We were taken through perfectly pruned rose trellises and impeccably designed flower beds. She stopped us every few seconds so we could admire her gardens. At the huge double doors of her house, she paused again and silently waited for all ten of us children to be standing before her. Then she opened the door with great fan fare. We followed her in… I was expecting some big surprise but all I saw was a large living room with fancy furniture. Two maids stood quietly by the staircase and her two children stood at the top. They were dressed in fancy going to church clothes. Mrs. Ford stood there watching us expectantly.
After an uncomfortable silence, I said, “This is a very nice front room Ma’am.”
“This is the foyer!” Ut oh, she had that puffy toad look again. She spun around and took us through the dining room and into the kitchen. She showed us her brand new matching refrigerator and oven/stove combination. She explained they were Wedgwood’s. The top of the line in robins egg blue enamel and she went on and on about the wonderful advances in technology. When she noticed our bored looks, she handed us off to Maisy and left in a snit. We didn’t mean to be rude, it’s just most of what she said went over our heads.
Maisy took us outside and one of the maids from the foyer, passed out bags with our names written on them. She told us we could change in the pool house. Each bag contained a fancy towel, suntan lotion and a brand new swimsuit. I changed and put my clothes into the bag, then met everyone out on a grassy fenced off area; a table had been set up with piles of food on it.
Things finally got fun, Maisy was in charge0 of us, she was young and silly. She clowned around as she served us food and made us all laugh with her antics. I mostly picked at the food, not being familiar with it. But Maisy recommended a few things that I liked; pigs in blankets were good and so was the chicken a la king. I got brave and tried something called Jellied Anchovy Moulds, UGH! I had never tasted anything so horrible in my life. My stomach lurched and my eyes watered. Maisy handed me a napkin and gave me permission to spit out the foul stuff, laughing as she did. I had always thought the head cheese my great grandma made was the worst tasting thing ever, boy was I wrong. After I had rinsed my mouth about a thousand times I looked up and saw a cute little dog come around the corner of the house. I went over to pet it.
“Don’t touch her!” one of Mrs. Ford’s kids snarled picking it up. “I don’t want her getting lice or bugs.”
I ignored the rudeness, because the good Lord said to turn the other cheek. “Aren’t you going to come out to play?” I asked, since he was still in his fancy outfit.
“Play with you poor mountain kids? I don’t think so.”
I watched him go back to his house thinking about what he said. It bothered me some that he looked down on me but, I soon forgot about it as we played in their pool. It was warm, not cool like the stream by my house so I didn’t stay in long.
After a couple hours they told us it was time to leave, so the kids got out of the pool. They gave us wonderful watermelon popsickles to eat as we all dried off, that was the best part of the day. Sitting in the fenced off area, I looked over the manicured lawns. What’s the point of having nice grass if you can’t play in it? We have grassy hills that we romp on; it’s smells so clean and earthy at the same time. I love the days we play tag or roll down the hills. Special nights are spent lying back in the soft springy grass, listening to the sounds of the bull frogs and cicadas and watching the stars with my family. That's about as close to Heaven as you can get here on earth.
Mrs. Ford never came out to say goodbye to us. We never saw her again after the kitchen incident. But Maisy was there to hug us all goodbye and wished us well, until Mrs. Ford bellowed for her to come into the house.
The bus drove us back to the church. Our Pastor greeted us as we pulled up. Most the kids started walking home, up the steep mountain road but I hung back.
“You have something you want to talk to me about, Sarah Jane?” My pastor asked.
“Yes sir, I was wondering, why do the town people consider us poor?”
“Well, that’s probably because we don’t have the luxuries like they do; electricity, cooling, new fangled refrigerators or indoor plumbing and such.”
“What’s so special about those things? We have all we need. We have an icebox to keep food cold, and we just open or close the windows depending on the temperature outside. And Daddy built that nice covered walk way to the privy for Momma last year.”
“True, but the Fords do have a beautiful fancy home in town and servants.” He said playing devils advocate.
“Ya they do but, I feel sorry for them.”
“You do?” he questioned obviously surprised.
“Yes, I do. They have manicured lawns that their kids can’t play on. I have the grass filled mountain slopes that I can play on any time. They have a pool that is warm and smells of chemicals. I have a beautiful stream of fresh flowing water that runs by my house and forms a natural pool. It's always cool and tastes delicious on a hot day. They have perfect flower beds and rose covered trellises that they can only look at. I have wildflowers all over the mountain that I can touch, smell or pick whenever I want. They live on a small piece of property, with tall fencing around it for security. I live on this nice mountain with a wonderful view of the fields below. It's all open and our security comes from each other. They buy their food and pay people to prepare it, but we are able to grow our own and are blessed to prepare and share it with family and friends.
"So who is really poor?” I smiled and thanked the pastor, then started on the hike to my home up on the mountain. As I walk I talk to the Lord.
“Thank you Jesus for making me rich in all the things that are truly important,”
The Pastor watched her walk away, astounded that such profound wisdom came from one so young. He realized that God had just sent him an inspiration for his next sermon.