I have read this story before. I got it from the website of Dick Stannard, whose email is [email protected] Here is what I found and got permission to use:
(This story has appeared several times and places on the internet in recent years. I am going to tell the story in three parts in separate posts this Easter season. – Dick S)
By Eddie Ogan (female)
“I’ll never forget Easter 1946. I was 14, my little sister Ocy was 12, and my older sister Darlene 16. We lived at home with our mother, and the four of us knew what it was to do without many things. My dad had died five years before, leaving mom with seven school kids to raise and no money.
“By 1946 my older sisters were married and my brothers had left home. A month before Easter the pastor of our church announced that a special Easter offering would be taken to help a poor family. He asked everyone to save and give sacrificially.
“As we walked home after church, we sang all the way. At lunch, mom had a surprise for us. She had bought a dozen eggs, and we had boiled Easter eggs with our fried potatoes! Late that afternoon the minister drove up in his car. Mom went to the door, talked with him for a moment, and then came back with an envelope in her hand. We asked what it was, but she didn’t say a word. She opened the envelope and out fell a bunch of money. There were three crisp $20 bills, one $10 and seventeen $1 bills.
“Mom put the money back in the envelope. We didn’t talk, just sat and stared at the floor. We had gone from feeling like millionaires to feeling like poor white trash. We kids had such a happy life that we felt sorry for anyone who didn’t have our mom and dad for parents and a house full of brothers and sisters and other kids visiting constantly. We thought it was fun to share silverware and see whether we got the spoon or the fork that night.
“We had two knives that we passed around to whoever needed them. I knew we didn’t have a lot of things that other people had, but I’d never thought we were poor.
“That Easter Day I found out we were. The minister had brought us the money for the poor family, so we must be poor. I didn’t like being poor. I looked at my dress and worn-out shoes and felt so ashamed—I didn’t even want to go back to church. Everyone there probably already knew we were poor!
“I thought about school. I was in the ninth grade and at the top of my class of over 100 students. I wondered if the kids at school knew that we were poor. I decided that I could quit school since I had finished the eighth grade. That was all the law required at that time. We sat in silence for a long time. Then it got dark, and we went to bed. All that week, we girls went to school and came home, and no one talked much. Finally on Saturday, mom asked us what we wanted to do with the money. What did poor people do with the money? We didn’t know. We’d never known we were poor. We didn’t want to go to church on Sunday, but mom said we had to. Although it was a sunny day, we didn’t talk on the way.
“Mom started to sing, but no one joined in and she only sang one verse. At church, we had a missionary speaker. He talked about how churches in Africa made buildings out of sun-dried bricks, but they needed money to buy roofs. He said $100 would put a roof on a church. The minister said, ‘Can’t we all sacrifice to help these poor people?’ We looked at each other and smiled for the first time in a week.
“Collection Plate 2
“Mom reached into her purse and pulled out the envelope. She passed it to Darlene. Darlene gave it to me, and I handed it to Ocy. Ocy put it in the offering.
“When the offering was counted, the minister announced that it was a little over $100. The missionary was excited. He hadn’t expected such a large offering from our small church. He said, “You must have some rich people in this church.”
“Suddenly it struck us! We had given $87 of that ‘little over $100.’
“We were the rich family in the church! Hadn’t the missionary said so? From that day on, I’ve never been poor again. I’ve always remembered how rich I am because I have Jesus!
“How about you? Are you rich or poor? I want to be as rich as Eddie Ogan.”
Now a word from me, Pat Ridpath: When I was young, in school and even when I was working and on my own, I never felt like our family was “poor” even though my dad on a teacher’s salary had to work at every job he could find throughout the school year and every summer. He raised two huge gardens, milked our own cow (taking it to pasture every day), had chickens and pigs and butchered and canned meat all on less than three acres. He also gathered nuts of all kinds and berries, so many at one time that my poor, tired momma flushed some down the toilet when she just could not can another berry. He and mom filled our cellar with canned goods and potatoes to last us the winter or more. He sent his two sons through their colleges of choice and got his two girls married off early, neither choosing to go to college. Think of all he did on a teacher’s meager salary. We were poor, but I didn’t know it. That is why I love this story.)