Then the day of October 29, 1929 came. It began as any other day before ominous events began to unfold. The client went to the stock exchange to find out what was happening only to be advised that his fortune had been wiped out. The bank was going to reposses his fabulous car and his upscale accomodations. Many men just like him had their fortunes wiped out in a flash and leaving them with little more than the clothes on their backs. Some of them were so overwhelmed that they took an immediate and early exit from the world.
Other men who had lived the same lifestyle swallowed their pride as they came to sleep in hostels and dine at soup kitchens. Private charities stretched their resources to the limits to help the sheer number of people whose lives had been turned upside down by the stock market collapse. There was no government welfare available and people in need had to use their own resources or turn to a private charity for help. The client who sought help soon found out that most of the charities provided only temporary assistance.
Most charities were affiliated with churches and they upheld the motto that God helps those who help themselves. They would turn away clients who refused to help themselves or help out at the charity. Some charities had access to donated land and clients were asked to provide services helping to work the land to grow food, help harvest food or help in preserving food for the winter months. Other charities had partnered with businesses to offer skills training, remedial schooling and apprenticeship programs. Nuns and chaplains were present at most of the charities and most of them were damn sure to minister to the spiritual needs of the clients who sought help from the charities.
The client recalled an incident at the charity when the chaplain chewed out another client who repeatedly said that he was no good. "Just who do you think you are for telling me that you're no good," yelled the chaplain. He continued, "don't you not know that God does not make junk! When you keep saying to me that you're no good, you're actually praying to the devil! And guess what? The devil will answer your prayer or were you never told to be careful what you pray for because that is what you will get?" The chaplain then shouted at the clients, "you're literally killing yourselves with prayers like that! Were you never told that thou shalt not kill?"
The charity required clients to regularly participate in chapel services. The chaplain advised that he was going to make sure that we were not going to destroy ourselves by praying to the devil. He told the clients that each of them was going to have his own special prayer that had to say several times a day. Most of the men at the charity were broken men who did not seem to have the inner wherewithall to face the challenges and adversity of living through difficult times. In their prayers each had to ask for spiritual gifts such as inner strength, inner power and courage.
A few days into the client's stay at the charity an intoxicated fellow, who was literally carried in off the street, came in. He reeked of wine and was dressed in worn and tattered clothes. If ever there was a sight of a broken man, he was it. He was allowed to sleep off his intoxication in a makeshift cot. When he awoke he asked for a drink of wine. There was none to be had and cried like a child as he pleaded for a drink. He was crying hysterically and begging for a drink of wine when the chaplain walked in and demanded to know what was happening. The chaplain was emphatic that the fellow would get no wine if he wanted help from the charity.
He was given the choice either to be willing to help himself during his stay at the charity or to leave immediately. The chaplain asked how a penniless, broken and unemployed man could get access to wine and was told, "I got ways!" "Aha!" exclaimed the chaplain, "so you do have some inner resources to help you get your hands on a drink of wine. I will give a choice to either participate in rebuilding your life while you are here or you are out of here!" He was offered a bowl of soup and the chaplain insisted that he had to say a prayer before eating.
The chaplain asked the new client to repeat, "I want the strength and courage to persevere through the challenges before me". The fellow looked up at the chaplain with a dazed and confused look on his face as other clients repeated the sentence. "Come on man, what are you waiting for?" asked the chaplain as he pulled back the bowl of soup. "Say the prayer and I'll give you back the soup or you may leave!" said the chaplain. After several repeated attempts the fellow said, "I want the strength and courage to persevere through the challenges before me" as other clients accompanied him. The chaplain insisted that he had to repeat the statement several times over before he began to eat.
The client who fallen from an easy life of opulence and wealth to one of immediate and utter destitution had his own special prayer given to him by the chaplain. He was able to rebuild himself spiritually. He had been encouraged by some of the charity's occasional volunteers who had been former clients. They too had rebuilt their lives spiritually and had successfully completed training programs. Many of them actually had jobs in a tough economy and had acquired the ability to look after themselves during tough and challenging times. The client learned that unlike his material wealth that he had lost in 1929, the ability to be resourceful when persevering through adversity was a spiritual wealth that he would always have.
Copyright © 2007 Harry Valentine