You have only a dollar to your name–and no food to feed your family. Then a man comes to your door, deeply in need, begging for help. What do you do?
Today’s Restoration Moment comes from Memoirs of Abner Jones (by his son, A.D. Jones), which will appear in the upcoming Abner Jones: A Collection (Volume 2). Enjoy!
How often I have heard the good old man relate this story, which, however, it might affect others, never failed to bring tears into his own eyes:
On Saturday morning, as I was sitting in my study, pondering the poverty of my condition, my wife came in with her accustomed inquiry of “well, Mr Jones, what shall we have for dinner?” Adding, “we have not a grain of meal,”—flour was out of the question—”nor a particle of meat of any kind in the house. Then the sugar is out, there is no butter, and in fact there is nothing to eat, and tomorrow is Sunday.”
So saying, she quit the room, leaving me in such a state of mind as may well be conceived, when I say that a solitary one dollar bank note was the only money I had on earth, and no prospect whatsoever appeared of getting any until the accustomed weekly contribution should be put in my hands. And what would a single dollar do at the prevailing high prices, towards feeding seven hungry mouths for two whole days? I saw no way of escape, and in the agony of spirit which may well be guessed, I lifted up my heart in supplication to Him who feedeth the ravens when they cry. And a singular answer to my prayer I seemed speedily to attain.
I had just risen from my knees, when my wife again appeared at the door, all unconscious of the struggle which was going on within me, and ushered a gentleman into my study. His whole appearance was of that shabby genteel which betokens a broken-down gentleman. And from the first moment of beholding him, I took him to my confidence as unfortunate but not debased. “Sir” said he, “I am a stranger to you, and you are utterly so to me, save that I once heard you preach in ______.”
“My home is in that place—if indeed I may now claim a home. I sailed from that port nearly a year since, with all my earthly possessions, and embarked in a promising adventure. My ship fell into the hands of the enemy and I became a prisoner, my property of course became lawful plunder. After suffering many hardships and much indignity, I effected my escape on board a vessel bound to St. John. From that place to this I have worked my way along with incredible fatigue and pain. I have suffered much from hunger, cold and wet, and have slept many a night in the open woods. And here I am, in one word, Sir, penniless, and altogether too much worn down to proceed further without aid. I have friends in ________, to whom I am pressing on as fast as I can, and who will relieve my necessities when I reach them. I am an utter stranger in your town, and you are the only person I ever knew or saw in the whole place. I cannot beg, and I feel entirely reluctant to ask a loan of an utter stranger.”
Here was a struggle. I was poor, very poor; but here was one poorer than I. I had a hungry family to feed—so had he. And even more, a heart-breaking fact, his family was even now mourning him as dead. I could hesitate no longer. I thrust my hand mechanically into my pocket, and pulling out my last dollar, which I pressed upon the unfortunate mariner—for he could hardly be persuaded to take it, when he knew how low my finances were,—I blessed him in God’s name, and he left me with no words of thanks; but I knew that, had I from a full purse bestowed a liberal sum, he could not have felt more grateful.
When he had gone, and absolute hunger for me and mine, stared me full in the face, I began to doubt the propriety of my act in taking the very bread from my children’s mouths to feed a stranger. But it was now too late to repent. The last dollar was gone and my children must go dinnerless and supperless to bed. For myself I cared nothing, but how would my family bear this unusual fasting? I seized my hat and cane and rushed into the street to escape from my own thoughts, which had become too painful to endure. I knew not—cared not whither I should bend my steps.
As I walked moodily and mechanically on, thinking o’er all the bitterness of my situation, suddenly the thought came into my mind: — why should I despond? Have I ever gone hungry, even for a day—me and mine? Has not the Lord provided hitherto? And will he not in time to come? —in the present time? I had scarcely concluded this soliloquy, when one of my neighbors, whom I knew to be a Universalist, and whom I had occasionally seen at our meetings—the members of his family came frequently—accosted me with, “good morning, Mr. Jones. I have been thinking for some time past that I ought to discharge a debt I owe you.”
“I was not aware,” I replied, “that you had incurred such an obligation.”
“O, but I have,” said he, “my family goes occasionally to hear you preach, and once in a while I go myself. Now as the laborer is worthy of his hire, and as I wish no man to labor for me without pay, I beg you will accept this trifle as in part a liquidation of the debt.”
The “trifle,” was a five dollar note, which I received with feelings that I will not mock by attempting to describe. I returned to my house, and after again falling on my knees, humbled under a sense of my lack of confidence in God, and grateful for his goodness to me, all unworthy as I felt myself to be; I sallied forth to the market, and soon came back ladened with the things necessary to our comfort.