I'll never forget Easter 1946. I was 14, my little sister Ocy was 12, and my
older sister Darlene was 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 with 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
When we got home, we talked about what we could do. We decided to buy 50 pounds
of potatoes and live on them for a month. This would allow us to save $20 of our
grocery money for the offering. We also thought that if we kept our electric lights
turned out as much as possible and didn't listen to the radio, we'd save money on
that month's electric bill. Darlene got as many house and yard cleaning jobs as
possible, and both of us babysat for everyone we could. For 15 cents we could buy
enough cotton loops to make three pot holders to sell for $1. We made $20 on pot
holders. That month was one of the best of our lives.
Every day we counted the money to see how much we had saved. At night we'd sit in
the dark and talk about how the poor family was going to enjoy having the money the
church would give them. We had about 80 people in church, so figured that whatever
amount of money we had to give, the offering would surely be 20 times that much.
After all, every Sunday the pastor had reminded everyone to save for the
The day before Easter, Ocy and I walked to the grocery store and got the manager
to give us three crisp $20 bills and one $10 bill for all our change. We ran all
the way home to show Mom and Darlene. We had never had so much money before. That
night we were so excited we could hardly sleep. We didn't care that we wouldn't
have new clothes for Easter; we had $70 for the sacrificial offering.
We could hardly wait to get to church! On Sunday morning, rain was pouring. We
didn't own an umbrella, and the church was over a mile from our home, but it didn't
seem to matter how wet we got. Darlene had cardboard in her shoes to fill the
holes. The cardboard came apart, and her feet got wet. But we sat in church proudly.
I heard some teenagers talking about the Smith girls having on their old dresses.
I looked at them in their new clothes, and I felt rich.
When the sacrificial offering was taken, we were sitting on the second row from
the front. Mom put in the $10 bill, and each of us kids put in a $20. 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 bill 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 knifes 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 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. 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!
By Eddie Ogan