Not finding June lazy or carefree


And what is so rare as a day in June?

1% Then, if ever, come perfect days;

Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune

5) And over it softly her warm ear lays;

Whether we look or whether we listen;

We hear life murmur, or see it glisten.

Though I probably showed little appreciation at the time, I shall always be indebted to my high school English teacher who introduced these lines by James Russell Lowell to us.

The word "June" paints many pictures for me -- long, lazy days framed by lightning-bug dotted summer nights and hung amid a tapestry of memories: never-ending Monopoly games left on the parlor floor for weeks, galloping with cousins on imaginary horses through fields and swinging Tarzan-like on ropes tied in ,, the orchard trees, carefree cycling and skating and walking the streets of a small town, sharing books and thoughts and ourselves with a network of friends.

When 26 of us graduated from Mount Airy High School May 25, 1942, 11 of us had sat in classrooms and roamed school halls together since we had entered Corrine Watkins' first grade in September 1931.

Then as I went on to college and into the classroom as a teacher, there was also a sense of freedom and release as each June brought the end of another school year.

However, a nostalgic jog down memory lane is not what I really want to share today. Six years ago this June I washed my last chalkboard and closed my last classroom register and wondered, "What now?"

As I reflected on my life to that time, the words "much is required from the person to whom much is given" (Luke 12:48) came to mind. Certainly much had been given to me -- now it was my turn and time to repay.

Four years earlier, Dominic Jollie had started Carroll County Food Sunday and I had volunteered there for several summers; now I chose to give some of my time to that program.

I can remember when three of us sat and visited much of our scheduled time because we had so few clients -- not true today. A recent article celebrating the 10 years of its existence gave a summary of the growth of this program.

Now, one day each week, I share a few moments with people who are not finding June days, or any other days, lazy and carefree. And I so often think, "There, but for the grace of God, go I."

Through no effort of mine I was born into a loving, supportive family in a middle-class American home. In like manner, it is not the fault of these little children, or the young mother, or the young man who just lost his job, or the elderly man embarrassed that he must seek help, who find themselves hungry and sometimes homeless in the midst of an affluent society.

Though they are unaware of it, a brief silent prayer goes out with each person I interview that life will soon deal a better hand in his or her situation.

The numbers who need this help have grown dramatically in the past two years, but it's the individuals I remember: a mother fighting a losing battle with cancer while her teen-age daughter is working and going to college and I wonder about that girl, whom I never met, as she goes on alone; another mother who is attending the community college trying to ensure a better future for her family; many mothers working two jobs plus struggling with family responsibilities; and an appreciative young man who returns to give money to us after he finds work.

I am aware that there must be some who abuse and take advantage of this program. I have friends who tell me these participants are lazy and could lift themselves out of the gutter of despair and hopelessness where they sometimes find themselves. But these friends have never been there and I have never been there, so how do we know how we might react to such a situation?

I, too, find myself critical at times, in other situations as well, and ask myself why I should share my time and my pension and myself with seemingly unappreciative recipients in various walks life; and then, to get my thinking into proper perspective, I pull from the bookshelf my copy of Kahlil Gibran's book, "The Prophet," and read:

You often say, "I would give, but only to the deserving."

The trees in your orchard say not so, nor the flocks in your pasture.

They give that they may live, for to withhold is to perish.

Surely he who is worthy to receive his days and his nights,

is worthy of all else from you [me].

And he who has deserved to drink from the ocean of life

deserves to fill his cup from your [my] little stream.

And then I pause and, in humility, thank God for the resources that enable me to be a giver and that He deems me worthy to be one.

Frances M. Bartlett is a Westminster resident.

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