********** 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 latched.
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. **********