While going through some books at my parents a few months ago, I came across an old book. The cover has a black and white picture of a little boy sitting in a wash basin and the title of the book read, “Who’s Depressed?”. This made me laugh. We were a few weeks into COVID and I felt like God had planted this book in my path because, yes, I was raising my hand on this one. I was depressed. Our whole country was on the verge of a new type of Great Depression. More like a Deep Depression. I looked through it and discovered that it was a book written by mom’s aunt Ann (whom I have spent time with as a little girl) recounting stories of humor and hope during the Great Depression. Her uncle Ed Christensen is the main character. She described him as a “bright and shining thread” and said “whatever our circumstances, we could depend on fun and laughter whenever he appeared. Ed frequently pulled practical jokes…Similar happenings were going on all across our broad land. Each of the anecdotes emphasizes those human characteristics inherent in us which enable us to make the best of things in difficult or unusual circumstances.”
I didn’t start reading this strange little book until a few days ago. My attitude about all things COVID related has really stunk and my heart and mind are getting more cynical and edgy by the day. Who’s Depressed? Well, seems like a good time to see who else might agree with me, so I dove in.
A couple of days ago I woke up, angry as usual about all the loss and chaos and craziness in the world right now. I drug myself into the living room and started reading my usual “inspirational” books that hadn’t been living up to their name lately. I was still complaining to God in my head when I came across a story in this book called “Helping Hands”. It was a story about how H.K. Williams, my great grandfather, had picked up two hitchhikers. They soon revealed that there were 5 others in their family and they had travelled from Minnesota looking for work. They had all lost jobs and were living in a park across town in Idaho Falls. He dropped off one boy at his home and then went with the other to the park and loaded the rest of them into his truck. They worked for and lived with him and his wife for the next few months until jobs became available. Side note-my great-grandparents had 11 children of their own. A couple were away at college so she only had to feed 15 people every meal.
Ann notes: “Because of the helping hands extended by H.K. And Margaret Williams, a deserving family was enabled to get back on its feet economically and survive the worst effects of the Great Depression.
Good timing. God timing. We are all struggling but certainly not like that. It’s a different, isolating Depression. I won’t really go into that right now because my lesson is not so much about how they had it way worse than I do and I should shape the heck up!
The lesson I heard when I read this story was that one important and powerful thing I can do during this pandemic is to serve. Serving others helps them and helps me.
The first few weeks of the pandemic I gave this a shot. I went through FACEBOOK and found out who had birthdays coming up and drove a card to their house. I think it really touched those people’s hearts. Then I quit because I let self pity and resentment at the state of the world consume me.
After I read this I made an effort to reach out to a few friends, clients and neighbors with a gift or card or encouraging text/call. am going to make a point to look around me and see if I can somehow be a “bright and shining thread” to even just one person a day. Maybe I can serve my way out of my gray, negative, helpless-hopeless-heaviness. Those attitudes are just not working for me anymore.
I don’t know a lot about my ancestors, but now I know this much. I am going to try to carry this attitude of serving with joy and kindness and resilience on to those that come after me. If you raised your hand when I asked, “Who’s Depressed?”, maybe you can join me.