Of Generosity and Independence

                        by William Payne


     From the Editor: A number of months ago Dr. Jernigan sent me

an exchange of correspondence that he thought I might wish to

publish in the Braille Monitor. I certainly did. The first letter

was written to Dr. Jernigan and accompanied a modest contribution

to the National Federation of the Blind. It told a touching story

whose theme is fitting for this season and for all Americans to

take to heart. We are printing Dr. Jernigan's response first

because, as usual, he expresses in a few words the value he found

in the letter and the impact it had on him. In the hope that we

all may open ourselves to greater generosity of spirit and

respect for those who walk into our lives, here are the two

letters Dr. Jernigan passed on to me:


                                                    April 7, 1998

                                              Baltimore, Maryland
Mr. and Mrs. William Payne, Jr.

Greenville, Mississippi
Dear Mr. and Mrs. Payne:
     Thank you for the moving story about the broom. It captures

the very heart and soul of what it means to be a true American, a

free citizen of a free country. It also captures the very heart

and soul of Christianity and the teachings of the Bible.
     I was deeply touched and inspired by this story and will

certainly use it. Perhaps it will encourage others to reach out

to their fellow human beings.
     Again, I thank you. You have made my day.
                                                 Kenneth Jernigan

                                               President Emeritus

                                 National Federation of the Blind


Dear Dr. Jernigan:
     The blind sellers of brooms, a man and his wife, came to our

door one night about October 1931. My sister, about six, myself,

about four, and my mother and daddy, each twenty-nine, heard the

tap, tap, tapping as they came up the sidewalk, up the walk to

the front screen door, and then paused, for the screen door was

     Daddy went out on the porch, after turning on the porch

light. The man stood on the top step, his wife halfway up the

steps. He had a single broom in hand--she some ten or twelve.
     "Good evening sir, might we interest you in a quality, hand-

made straw broom, tonight?"
     Daddy hesitated; times were tough as you well know, Mr.

Jernigan. "Oh sir," my dad replied, "We just cannot buy one of

your brooms tonight."
     "Could we give you one then at no cost to you?" That touched

Daddy so that he asked the man how much he was asking for a

broom. "Anything, anything at all will be welcome; some people

pay $1, some less, some nothing at all. And sir, we are not

asking for your money; we are not beggars; we support ourselves

by these brooms."
     Daddy didn't have a paper dollar. By this time Mother and we

kids were also at the door. My sister said, "I have fourteen

cents," and "I have twenty-four cents" was her brother's reply.

Mother emptied her coin purse onto the floor, another twenty-

three cents. Daddy dug deep into his pockets, still only ninety-

eight cents total.
     Mother, as mothers so often do, had a solution. "Mr. and

Mrs. Broom Merchants, I have some two-cent stamps. Would one of

them do?" "Certainly," came the reply. "We need stamps." One

dollar in coin and stamps.
     One dollar, hallelujah. Two people, make that six people,

were made happy, each caring for the other; dignity and

compassion were displayed all around.
     So here's my first check. God bless you for all you do and

try to do. Angels can do no better.
                                               William Payne, Jr.