Category Archives: Family

Growing Up on Poor Farm Road

Instructions on school forms read, “Address of student.” I carefully wrote down “R. R. 5, Poor Farm Road, Bedford, Indiana.” (Of course that was before the days of state codes, such as IN, and zip codes, such as 47421.) How would you like to grow up on the Poor Farm Road? Wouldn’t you rather have a box number and a street name instead?

In the 1950s, as a little boy, I did not think much about it. I was blessed, even though it was a gravel road of only about three miles. The day we got the road blacktopped was one of the banner days for all of us who lived on the road. We had no shoulders and no guardrails, but we also no longer had clouds of dust billowing into our houses or large holes to steer around. Steve and Larry on bikesTwelve families lived on the three-mile stretch. We shared our phone with six other families as part of a “party line.” In an emergency, you just politely asked whoever might be talking if you could have the line for an important call. Only one family of the twelve ever had a new car, and there was only one car in each driveway. But we all had access to a second car—a neighbor’s car. If our car didn’t start in the early morning, we’d simply stand by our mailbox until a neighbor came by. Dad would wave and the neighbor would stop, or the neighbor would wave and Dad would stop; then he’d drop you off wherever you worked. Most worked at the same factory in town. If a neighbor got sick and could not plow his garden or feed his cattle, word got out quickly and the neighbors would take over. One farmer often drove his tractor down the road to see if any neighbor needed his garden plowed so he could do it for them. Neighbors shared skills. My mom went to Mrs. Neal, who lived in a house trailer behind her daughter’s house, to have her hair done. My mother was known for her home-made rolls and pies. She would share recipes as well as provide a fresh butter pie when a need arose.  As a small boy, I would tag along and play with the dog or listen to the women talk.  As I look back on those days, I realize the laughter and camaraderie gave a little boy a feeling of security and love. Across the street lived a hermit, Mr. Alexander, who had very little to do with any of us. I’m sure he was just shy and felt insecure around people. But his life style was puzzling to me, so I often walked over to talk to him and watch him around his little farm. He planted his own garden, cleared the land, and hunted. I’m still not sure how he survived. But I learned later that he was not a happy person since eventually he took his own life. I wish I had been nicer to him and included him in some of our activities. He was left alone mainly because he chose to be, but also because his breath and his body always smelled awful. After all these years, I still think of him as one who laughed with a six-year-old and patiently answered questions about what he was doing, his farm, and the tools he used.

The last house on the road was once a county-run residence where poor people, mainly the elderly and disabled, lived; thus the name “Poor Farm Road.” But on that road I learned about the richness of life—how to treat everyone, to respect older people, and what it meant to be nice. In addition, I enjoyed the fresh air, the smell of newly-mown hay in the summer, and the delicious vegetables that were not only eaten every day, but also frozen or canned for the cold days of January and February. You see, I never thought negatively about this name’s being associated with my home. To me, the Poor Farm Road is synonymous with great lessons I learned—rich lessons that guide me all these years later. Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 6:3

The Permissive Parent

Eli was a respected man in his community. He was the high priest at Shiloh and judge of Israel for 40 years (I Samuel 4:18). By all accounts he was a man of God, but a fault that brought him sorrow was that he was too permissive with his two sons. When news reached him about the sins of his sons, Hophni and Phinehas, he treated the news with indifference (I Samuel 2). Eli should have disciplined his sons from when they were young by taking stronger action, but he did not.

The consequences of Eli’s permissiveness were far-reaching. The family’s influence was destroyed (I Samuel 2:22-24). The esteem for Eli’s family was gone forever. The family’s devotion to God was compromised. Eli chose to please his sons rather than to please God. Eli was accused of honoring his sons above Jehovah. Because of the family’s sin, God promised to break the strength of the family (I Samuel 2:31).

Parenting is a challenge to all of us. We learn from Eli valuable lessons on parenting. Do not honor your children above God by excusing or justifying error in their lives. Do not regard God’s commands lightly. Take your parenting responsibilities seriously because what you do with your child will also have a dramatic effect on others (I Samuel 2:30-36).

Realize that a child is a gift from God and brings great responsibility. Realize the importance of implanting spiritual values in young hearts. Understand the need to instruct your children in the ways of the Lord. Eli lacked what today is sometimes termed “tough love.”

On the day the ark of God was captured, Eli and his sons died. On that day a child born into Eli’s house was named Ichabod. The meaning of the name is a commentary on Eli and his family—“The glory has departed from Israel” (I Samuel 4:21-22). Instead, we must train our children to obey us so “that it may go well with [them] and that [they] may enjoy long life on the earth” (Ephesians 6:3, Deuteronomy 5:16).