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Good Deeds in Hard Times

How one man’s small, secret gifts of charity during the Great Depression kept a world afloat.

Some of the 11,000 jobless in Cleveland register for temporary work, Nov. 13, 1930, during the Great Depression. (AP)

In the deepest depths of the Great Depression – December, 1933 – a little note appeared in an Ohio newspaper: If you’re in trouble, write me.

And many, many did. For shoes. A coat. For mercy. For food. To save their family from despair. And back came checks, under a pseudonym.

Investigative journalist Ted Gup saw the desperate letters and figured out that the benefactor was his grandad.

It’s a remarkable story of giving in hard times. It is relevant right now. A national story, a personal story, and a secret gift. Plus, we look at what’s up with billionaire philanthropy today.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests:

Ted Gup, longtime investigative journalist for the Washington Post and Time. He’s now chair of the Department of Journalism at Emerson College. His new book is “A Secret Gift: How One Man’s Kindness–and a Trove of Letters–Revealed the Hidden History of the Great Depression.” Link here to an audio excerpt.

Helen Palm, a 90-year-old woman from Canton, Ohio, whose letter written as a young girl (see below) during the Great Depression found its way to writer Ted Gup and became part of the story in “A Secret Gift.”

Stephanie Strom, reporter for the New York Times. Read her article, “Pledge to Give Away Fortunes Stirs Debate.”

Here’s Helen Palm’s letter:

Dear Sir,

When we went over at the neighbors to borrow the paper I read your article. I am a girl of fourteen. I am writing this because I need clothing. And sometimes we run out of food.

My father does not want to ask for charity. But us children would like to have some clothing for Christmas. When he had a job us children used to have nice things.

I also have brothers and sisters.

If you should send me Te[n] Dollars I would buy clothing and buy the Christmas dinner and supper.

I thank you.

HELEN PALM

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  • Zeno

    Good subject.. Greed vs Giving.

    Say what you want about the rich and mega rich of the past but some of them believed the motto: To whom much is given, much is expected.

    In my old home town there was a university building and a library built by Carnage. I think every small town in America had a Carnage library. A reasoned approach for a civil and educated society..,perhaps based on self interest as well, but helpful to America as well.

    I know the Gates foundation with a few others are doing good works globally, but most of his money was made HERE. The thrill of giving, generally, is not a part of the current top 20 percent.

    Very few come out and say “Tax Me, I’ve done very well off of America, and I deserve it”. IMO their greatest feeling of satisfaction comes from hearing about the suffering of the proletariat.

  • cory

    Maybe class envy and class warfare would be mitigated by more acts of philanthropy from the wealthy. It would be a nice change of pace from the feeling that the wealthy are hiding themselves and their wealth from the “everyman”.

    Leftfield, Wisconsin

  • Fred

    I fail to see how it is our business to know what or how much our neighbor earns, much less what he chooses to do with his money. Isn’t that the height of arrogance to say the least. Maybe class envy would be mitigated if we minded our own business instead of worrying about what the neighbors might be “hiding” from us.

  • Ellen Dibble in Northampton, MA

    The benefactors of the Depression could make a big difference with basic needs like shoes, apparently. It seems to me there is a difference in the kind of need that exists nowadays. If your house is about to go into default, and its value has decreased to underwater status, there may be $200,000 of mortgage payments that seem to be going down the tube as you lose your asset, and a benefactor cannot make you whole; the banks cannot even make you whole. Or say you have a health issue.
    Eighty years ago, the medical that was available was the sort a benefactor could provide. Nowadays, the person needing an MRI might need $5,000, and then the results might not be helpful. Or the person might need $300,000 a year until some court case resolves. That sort of thing.
    It seems to me communities are better organized than 80 years ago in terms of having ongoing soup kitchens, ongoing homeless shelters, ongoing recycling “stores,” run by the Salvation Army or the like.
    Someone hitting hard times might have 80 percent of their expenses actually going for insurance, and 30 percent food and shelter. Does the benefactor want to pay for your long-term care insurance while you go through a season of cancer treatment? Do they want to backstop you while you scrimp? They can’t help you from scrimping because the main costs are not those things like shoes that can be obtained from thrift shops.

  • Herb Gillis

    Tom
    We all have an obligation to help one another. I am blessed enough to work for a company that has a Stewardship program that is totally voluntary, and does many good works in the community.
    More people and businesses need to step up to the plate.
    There but by the grace of God……

    Herb

  • http://kellysalasin.wordpress.com Kelly Salasin

    This story segment sinuously brought tears to my eyes. Sometimes looking back helps us see the present situation in our country more clearly.

  • L Armond

    This program reminds me of my grandfather, also from Ohio, Akron, Cuyahoga-Falls, and his sunday dinner table frequently had people who were alone, no family to go home to after mass. I can remember four who were there regularly for big family events, and probably were there when the whole crowd wasn’t. And grandfather always fed people, and gave them a place to curl up and keep warm, and some work to do in the yard, food, and they always checked in to see if grandfather needed anything. I think he kept a list of things for Frank to do, things he had no one to help him with, and Frank helped Grandfather, and Grandfather helped Frank, even when he was drunk, an injured VET, injured in mind. Grandfather was a medic in the pacific and always tended the shell shocked, and elderly all his life.

  • http://kellysalasin.wordpress.com Kelly Salasin

    oops—from the Green Mountains of Vermont

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    Where I grew up in central Connecticut, there was an area of several towns with elegant homes situated on sprawling meadowland. Stone walls decorated the landscape. “Why is that wall there, Mother?” I asked. “Oh, during the Depression, the people who lived in that mansion hired as many people as they could, and those people built walls. So they are there.”
    I got the impression that after one mansion-owner did that, all the wealthy people hired wall builders to take care of those in need.

  • Phil

    Some people always want a handout.

    If you ran out of money during the Depression, you shouldn’t be wasting money on toys for your kids or doctors for people who are going to die anyway.

    North Birmingham, AL

  • Donna

    Listening to the program today about the spirit of gifting during the depression reminds me of one of our family’s stories. My grandparents, living along the NJ coast, had my father, a child at that time, to go fishing daily and bring it home to add to the daily meal that people lined up for. I believe that this was in Toms River NJ, along a then clean coast. That the family had these resources and shared them always creates a warm feeling and the reminder that no matter how little we have, there is always something to share with our community.
    A funny, second story during a depression of the late 1800′s…my G-G-grandfather, an engraver and jeweler from Germany, employed many people in the town of Irvington NJ. He wanted to keep people employed during this economic failing, so those Germans went to work engraving money in the basements at night! Finally, the town officials knew they needed to do something about this, but as a well respected man attempting to keep the community employed, they figured out a great way to ‘punish’ him. Every Friday night for a subscribed time, the constables would pick him up in the carriage and bring him to the pokie to play poker all weekend! My grandmother was not amused….

  • Ann, Barrington, RI

    WHAT A BEAUTIFUL SHOW!!! Thank you!!!

  • Jim Mars

    We have in our home quilts which were sewn during the Great Depression by women who were helped out by my
    Great Aunt Marcia in Arcadia, California. She and
    her husband were comfortable, since his machine shop
    continued to succeed during the 1930′s. But my
    “Grantie” helped out many local people. Particularly
    in the 1930′s, helping others by employing others to
    do real work was more acceptable than direct charity.

    More personally, she took in my mother, whose family
    orchard in Lodi, California was in trouble from before
    1930. My mother was able to live with Grantie while
    she worked part-time as a waitress and graduated
    Pasadena City College and UCLA.

    Perhaps knowing more about the real Depression will remind the public how important it was to do what was
    necessary to avoid a repeat in 2008/2009. While times today are difficult with 9.6% unemployment, they are nothing like the 1930′s. To talk of letting the banks
    and insurance companies fail–after all they made the
    big mistakes–is just foolish.

    Jim Mars
    Toronto, Ontario, CANADA

  • Robyn Roberts

    My father was six years old in 1933. My grandmother, his mother, lived in Canton, OH at this time. She was newly widowed, my grandfather, Evan Roberts, having recently died while building a bridge in nearby Pennsylvania. I don’t know if my grandmother (Ethel Roberts) would have been a recipient of this generosity…perhaps she was. She remarried and spent the remainder of her life in Canton as Mrs. Ethel M. Roberts Haines. My father Richard Roberts and uncle Ronald Roberts were sons of Canton and whether Ethel received help directly from Mr. Gup or indirectly through the community of Canton OH, the kindness of strangers assisted my family and I thank you.

  • Jackie Church

    This is a wonderful story of how someone who “had” helped those who didn’t. I’m a school library media/specialist and would love to see this as a childrens book. We try to encourage our students to care about their neighbors and their community by sponsoring service projects. This story would be perfect to show them how we can help those whose circumstances are not as good as ours.
    (And as an Emerson parent, I was delighted to see the connection with Mr. Gup.)

  • Henry (Marblehead)

    Tom-

    Why did Mr. Stone choose the pen name B. Virdot?

    Thank you
    Henry

  • http://www.team-pegasus.com Beth Lamie

    I often have a hard time getting out of my car when I am listening to On Point on the radio, but today was particularly difficult when listening with a lump in my throat to Ted Gup read letters from his book. Words fail me, but I will buy his book and give it to everyone I know for Christmas. Beautiful, timely, and fills one with gratitude.

  • Gerald Fnord

    The old gent certainly showed rachmones…and it reminds me that every time I hear some immigrant-hating descendant of immigrants protest, “But _my_ grandparents came here _legally_,” I wish I could point out to him that (unless he were Chinese) it was hard to break the law by entering the country…unless you lied on your way in about your health or your means or your sponsor or your history…which quite a few people did.

    And:
    If we were all entirely self-created, self-educated, and self-made, then none would have claim on anyone else. Allowing _absolute_ claims on anyone else—for example, asking them to give up their life (in war or punishment), or all the means by which to live, that would be terrible…but human existence is in the grey middle.

    Wm Gates III based a good chunk of DOS directly on a pre-existing OS he didn’t write; I invented neither the computer nor the keyboard nor the English language nor Roman letters nor the idea of writing, yet I use all of these. And even if a rich person could make all her money all by her lonesome, she would be unable to keep anything near it all in the State of Nature without having to be as awful as every warlord has ever been…government does more for the wealthy than for anyone.

    No absolute claims on anyone else, no total independence of claims by others. The mechanism varies, but every viable society makes some of those claims.

  • http://kellysalasin.wordpress.com Kelly Salasin

    In listening to the program further, I’m concerned that the focus is on giving, rather than the dire situations of the people–which continues to this day. While the act of Mr. Gup’s grandfather brings tears to my eyes and is no doubt an act of healing and possibility, I’m hoping we don’t miss the insight it gives us to ongoing tragedy of a society where so many have so little and so few have so much.

  • David

    Tom,
    Do you, or does your guest, have recommendations for charities which efficiently help impoverished families, in our current times? I greatly sympathize with those who have children and are struggling to make ends meet. My heart goes out to them, and this show has helped me realize that my wallet should too.
    Thanks, guys.

  • Linda Markin

    $5 in 1933 was worth about $82. in today’s dollars. That put Mr. Stone’s largess in perspective for me. This was not the highest level of T’zedakah which can be explained as making a gift that enables the recipient to live free of reliance on others. But it was well up the ladder.

  • Mary Ellen Moir

    Thank you for a wonderful show. It reminds me of a story told by my mother. Her father (my maternal grandfather) was lucky enought to work during the depression for the Fostoria Glass Company, which divided up the work so that each worker got 2-3 days per month of work/pay. During the depression, someone showed up on my grandparents’ door selling crudly made wooden stools, as their only source of income. My grandmother, knowing that her own family had at least a tiny income, purchased a stool. I have inherited that stool and it stands in my kitchen today. It’s not pretty, and not very well made, but it’s a reminder to me and my family that no matter how much you have, you can find a way to help another person. I hope this message is passed along to future generations. Just because you can’t give away millions, doesn’t mean you can’t help with the smallest gift.

  • Ellen Dibble in Northampton, MA

    Modern giving, they say, everyone can participate because everyone has either time or money (to spare). Not necessarily. But in the 1990s I had a few years with time to spare, and did mentoring with a group in a low-income community, daily afterschool and in the summer.
    I would say there is a need for mingling among different parts of a community. It was apparently important for those mostly immigrant children to go places with me, and visit where I live and work. It was important for me to see the values they held and vice versa. I did learn that “things” were not needed. Things I had had to forgo as an upper middle class child in the 1950s were completely available to them. Multiple cars. Extravagant foods (prepared things like pizza). All the clothes they could use. I don’t pretend to understand. It shows how out of touch you can get after 30 years without children.
    But I would say the children needed a variety of connections, exposures outside their communities. In short, they need time.

  • Patricia Hunt

    I know people who have reached out to people they had no obligation to: a man who lent a truck to someone he did not know …for months…because the man needed it. I know someone who bought shoes for a woman shopping for school shoes for her son. He insisted that she needed shoes too, but she insisted she could not afford shoes. The bystander bought her shoes. I could go on, but I know it happens.

  • Andrew O’Brien

    My parents on a trip back from Canada stopped in Lawrence MA saw childeren walking in the snow bearfoot. My Grand father bought each child he saw a pair of shoes. At that moment he decided to run for congress. He got elected and wrtote the Walsh Healey Act. One of the first overtime pay laws. HE viewed the act as a job creater. He died soon after the depresion leaving his family in difficult circumstances because of all his charitable giving of coats and shoes during the depression.

  • Mary Beth

    my 2 anecdotes

    In February our mortgage company will begin foreclosure proceedings and I have no idea where our family of 5 will end up.

    A few weeks ago I contributed to WBUR for the first time

    When I can I give more than asking price at the many yard/moving sales in my neighborhood.

    I figure we can’t save our home so what the hell. I may as well share what I have in my pocket when its in my pocket.

    thank you

  • Lindsey

    Thank you for this touching program. Mr. Gup’s description of the Dickensonian conditions in Northeast Ohio during the depression brought tears to my eyes. My father lives in Canton, Ohio now, and all four of my grandparents spent their formative years in Northeast Ohio – Louisville, Alliance, and Mineral City. I wish now that I had questioned my grandparents more about this time. It puts me in mind of one of my grandmother’s stories about wearing a coat in the house during the winter, when snow would blow in under the door and not melt in the house. Mr. Gup’s book sounds like a wonderful story of resilience.

  • L A Armond

    The appeal of the recent political ads from the ‘unidentifiable’ sources, seemed to call the needy names, castigating them, wanting them to be in a ghetto, out of sight and mind. The tax break people, are always talking on their phones, practically driving over the needy on the side of the road, cursing them as dirty, unresponsible, when they are the walking tired. Name calling at the poor, when the poor try their best to do what they can, much like feral dogs, not approaching, but appreciating when you leave some food, and show you understand. No, the tax break people, are oblivious, and driving more and more of us to serf like conditions. But we help each other as best we can. We recognize each other, and leave offerings .

  • Laurie

    In the last couple of years I’ve seen a lot of crowdsourced help for people in trouble due to mortgages, medical issues, etc. Someone will post on LiveJournal or Facebook to draw attention to the plight of a friend or colleague, and eventually word gets around and even strangers will pitch in. I myself have sent small amounts of money to people facing foreclosure, massive medical debt, eviction, and hunger. I can’t do a whole lot, but I am employed, so I do what I can. Also, I remember when several friends helped me make rent 10 years ago when I was broke, unemployed, and falling apart, so I try to pay it forward.

  • Flowen

    One stark fact I don’t think wealthy people really get:

    For a family struggling for what they need, perhaps with an income eg. <$30,000 (whatever the $s really are) $1000 (in 2010) makes a SUBSTANTIAL difference in the quality of their life.

    For a family with sufficient income (whatever it is), $1000 makes virtually no difference in their quality of life. For higher incomes, even $100,000 makes virtually no substantive difference.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    Andrew, I’ve got an ancestor like yours too. This old uncle would give away the coat off his back, and then the family had to take care of him. What a drag. Object lesson: “Don’t get carried away by generosity if you are yourself needy. Don’t count on others being as generous to you as you would like to be.”
    Again, this was a different issue in the 1930s. The safety net was different. Nowadays the uncle would have Social Security, for instance, I suppose.

  • Flowen

    Based on my readings of Ayn Rand, I think she gets short shrift these days.

    I never got that she advocated throwing out the poor. I associate Ayn Rand with the idea that government bureaucracies have the very real habit of obstructing able individuals’ attempts to bring real good to society; while allowing individuals of much lesser abilities to game and enrich themselves off the system at the expense of society as a whole, and especially at the expense of those who have real value to contribute.

    Very pertinent today.

    As Ayn Rand feels, capable individuals are entitled to benefit from those efforts; and I agree. Just like the airline stewardess says: “if the oxygen masks deploy, put yours on first; then help others.”

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    Mary Beth, sorry about your possible foreclosure. I hope it doesn’t happen. As to giving to WBUR under the circumstances, I understand. Years that have been huge losses for me I have all the more given to public radio. In my case it was a lifeline to the world when I was sick, and now it is a lifeline to people of many sorts whom I would otherwise never link to.
    It could be argued that the worse you are doing, the more you need NPR. I don’t get personal calls from NPR the way I do from my church (which I never get time to participate in), but the church does help organize and support a lot of local good projects (a rehab house, maybe a safe house, soup kitchen, homeless shelter where for some odd reason the city refused to let people sleep, only stay warm).
    When I get to be 65 and have Medicare, and thus about $10,000 new disposable income (what isn’t owed by me, that is), I will definitely keep all this in mind.

  • http://www.warblerwoods@msn.com Peter Hildebrandt

    As anyone who’s ever delivered pizzas or served the public will attest, the best tippers are quite often among those who have the least. I’ll never forget all the pizzas I delivered to one guy whose Mercedes was always parked out front. He gave me the exact change to the penny & it was a good drive to his place. A lady who worked with him, when she paid for the pizza would always throw in an extra couple of bucks. She knew I’d driven there at my own expense & knew how much it meant to me. We need to change the narrative frames in this country from this attitude that the rich somehow “deserve” to have their taxes cut permanently, well because “when I get that rich it’s what I expect to happen to me,” to a more realistic one recognizing that the rich did not get that way in a vacuum. They, like the rest of us do need to “pay the dues” for the privilege of living in the world we have today – not to mention the fact that hey, they’re rich, they already have plenty of money! Why are many in this country obsessed with the idea that they should be further rewarded just for being rich by paying taxes at lower rate than the rest of us. Income disparity is growing to be one of the top problems in this country & will continue to be so until these things are addressed.

  • Flowen

    Peter

    I echo that!

    In a prior life, as a heating contractor, I have had the opportunity to work for very poor people, very rich people, and all in between.

    No question, people of lesser means neither nickel and dime, or dispute bills, nowhere near as much as wealthy people do.

  • Ann, Barrington, RI

    Ellen D.,

    You say, “Years that have been huge losses for me I have all the more given to public radio. In my case it was a lifeline to the world when I was sick, and now it is a lifeline to people of many sorts whom I would otherwise never link to.”

    I’ve had exactly the same situation and reactions! NPR has been a “lifeline” and a life changer, due to how much I have been able to learn from it and from others on it! I get so nervous during local pledge drives that I sometimes call in additional pledges — the feeling is, I need to keep NPR ALIVE!. And, thoughtful posters have “lifelined” me, wishing me well with upcoming medical treatments!! I consider the dialogs (both on air and on this post; and the other outlets like Twitter that I don’t use) to be a form of “giving back” to our democracy. People take their time and thoughtfulness to call in or to post, and to just listen, and it enriches our national conversation about The Body Politic — which DOES need nourishment and tending to! So often I learn more about how to intelligently promote my own POV; but often I hear something that startles me into being able to see the opposite POV on a topic I thought I’d never switch sides on!

    Anyway, the “lifeline” is working so well that I can say, “We heard your quote read on air today!” How great!

  • Ellen Dibble in Northampton, MA

    Ann, I heard two days ago that the Bowles/Simpson proposal actually de-funds NPR, by the way. So.
    I heard Tom start to read my quote, and because I have to listen to the second hour on line through WBUR’s website, there are times when it goes incommunicado, mute, and it did that for exactly the time of him citing me. So if you’re saying “how great,” I guess I can heave a sigh of relief. Not that I think he would mangle it. More likely he (and the staff) improved it a lot with a little editing.

  • s. mattes

    What was music played at end of “Good Deeds in Hard TImes?”

  • http://samattes@gmail.com s.mattes

    What was the music played at the end of “Good Deeds in Hard TImes?”
    Lincoln,MA

  • https://www.onpointradio.org Eileen Imada

    The music we aired during the show “Good Deeds in Hard Times” was the following:

    “Stormy Weather” (1933) by Ethel Waters

    “Out of Nowhere” (1931) by Ranny Weeks and His Orchestra

    The music played at the end of the conversation with Ted Gup was “Red Eye” by The Album Leaf.

    Thanks for listening.

  • Jessie – Los Angeles, CA

    This great story reminds me of my grandmother, who has always wished to remain anonymous when it comes to her charity work, has been running a foundation called “The Christmas Fund For Needy Children”, based in Central New Jersey, for over four decades. Throughout the year she raises funds so that during the Christmas season she can provide presents, a few week’s worth of groceries, and new winter clothes to children who are in need throughout the community. To date, she has helped thousands of children and their families from Central New Jersey experience the joy of the holiday season. She is an inspiration to me and so many others who have witnessed her tireless work when it comes to her beloved charity. If we all had a bit more compassion for our fellow citizens, as shown by my grandmother and Ted Gup’s grandfather, the world would truly be a better place!

  • Nanette in Wisconsin

    Ms Church,

    You may already be familiar with Lita Judge’s “One Thousand Tracings,” a children’s book based on a true story that moves me every time I read it. Even after a bitterly fought world war, people still found space in their hearts to help the German people. How telling that the story is told by a child.

    http://www.amazon.com/One-Thousand-Tracings-Healing-Wounds/dp/1423100085

  • cory

    Fred 1059 hrs.

    I don’t want to live in your world. People like you are why I could never consider myself a conservative or republican, even though I agree with SOME of their core principles. You really believe that you are an island, don’t you?

    I hope you are paid a visit by some ghosts at Christmas time, Mr. Scrooge.

    Leftfield, Wisconsin

  • Carol Leybourn Janssen

    My parents were married in 1929. My mother was earning more in her job as a secretary than was my father, who at that time was working for an oil company unloading barrels of oil from the back of trucks. Yet he insisted that she leave her job and stay at home. Pop was also a musician, earning some money with bands in the Toledo, Ohio area. He also found a job as a soda jerk for evenings and week-ends.

    I was born in 1933, the first of two children. My memory of the Great Depression was that some relative was always moving in with us, along with his or her family. We lived in my grandparents’ house.

    When my father passed away, hundreds of people we, his daughters, did not know came for a last visit with “Charlie”. Later, among his belongings we found a small account book with hundreds of names with a ledger of loans in small amounts – some as low as $2.50, with records of repayments over years in the amount of 25¢ a month.

    Charlie was a rock for the family and all of his friends.

  • http://None ED

    Let’s remember that,as a group, those people who have a lot to give have invested up to $700 Mil. to win the midterm elecetion. It looks like their investment will pay $700 Billion in tax deductions. That’s a return of $1000 for one dollar invested in attack ads. Not bad! That’s also more than the Gazillionnaires will ever donate to benefit society.

  • Kevin in Iowa

    Tom,

    This was an incredibly powerful story. I’ve only heard people talk about the depression, but your show today really described in detail the toll it took on family and neighbors almost 80 years ago.

    It seems to me that there are lessons from this story that we can use today. People should have an individual sense of responsility to take care of themselves and their families. But, when individual efforts aren’t working, we as a society should be willing to help out. Isn’t this what humanity is all about?

  • http://morongobillsbackporch.blogspot.com Bill Mcdonald

    This is a wonderful story and one that I hope will be retold a few years from now,springing up from the despair that lies all around us today, if we will only open our eyes and hearts.

    I was driving home from work when I heard this on FM91.9
    out in San Bernadino, California. I had already read about this in the NY Times, but it didn’t prepare me for the impact that hearing this show and in particular from the only surviving letter writer, had on me. I was driving with tears in my eyes, it was a very moving story.

    I plan on buying the book and to see if perhaps I can help some folks in need.

  • Steve

    Thank you for the story of the man who gave from the little he had to help neighbors in his community in Ohio during the Great Depression. The story brought tears to my eyes and challenged me to be a better person in this world. A lot has been said about this depression, which I agree is significant. The Great Depression I suspect didn’t have as much ‘social netting’ in place as we have today. Unemployment benefits have been been extended significantly for a lot of our workers that lost jobs. It still isn’t the same as working, but it does help keep food on the table. I suspect that if everyone would agree to cut back on their entertainment expenditures by just 10% and donate that money to a charities that are known to be trustworthy, we would have enough money to take care of the documented needy in our country. Think about how many discretionary dollars are spent on average per household for entertainment (video gaming, smart phones, streaming everything, TV packages/satellite/cable, sports). I’m not judging these things as bad in and of themselves, but the emphasis and sense of entitlement to these things is compelling.

    Keep up the good work. I love your program.

  • William

    The part of the show that really struck a chord for me was the description of a girl who bought a wooden pony on wheels and described it as the only toy she had as a child — and then she grew up to raise miniature ponies. Moving in a way that only radio can. A wonderful show.

  • Fred

    Cory 351pm

    I direct your attention to the commenter who read about this story in the NYT first and then heard the radio show. Based on that he is choosing voluntarily to give of his resources. THAT is conservative values. Not worrying about what the neighbors have and you don’t and demanding they supply everyone with same.

    It begs the question: how is it anyone else’s business what you do with your resources be it money, time, or energy?

  • http://www.onpointradio.org Pien Huang

    @ Henry (Marblehead), who asked “Why did Mr. Stone choose the pen name B. Virdot?”

    B. Virdot was a combination of the names of his daughters Barbara, Virginia (Ted Gup’s mother), and Dorothy.

  • Mark

    I wish the billionaires would give their money to the deficit to allow our children the chance to do for themselves without an artificial anchor, rather than providing an artificial crutch through charity. Anyone who has served on the boards of charities, as I have, knows well the net long term good they do is nothing like they’d have you believe. Warren Buffet’s heart might be in the right place but what he’s really doing is taking (tax) money away from the government which became indebted during the period of expansion he profited from and deciding for us all where this money which came from us all should go, rather than giving it back to us all.

  • Charlotte, Columbus, OH

    Rabbi Moses ben Maimon, aka Maimonides, wrote back in the 12th Century that the highest order of charity is to give a man a job [with a living wage?] so that he could support his family and need not suffer the shame of becoming a burden to the community.

    Today I find myself wondering whatever happened to the American ethic of investing in our neighbors in order to make them productive citizens. These days if it isn’t rationalizing generational welfare for low lifes on the left, it’s passing faux banking reform to protect crooks with pretensions on the right.

    The worst elements of the Republican Party manipulate the Tea Party as the worst elements of the Democratic Party stand there like deer caught in the headlights. The working schmoe caught in the middle struggles to fend off foreclosure as he hopes that the creep trying to crawl into his kitchen window gets all the way inside this time so he can shoot the bastard and have done with it just to keep his sanity.

  • Niki Vettel

    Thank you,Tom and your producers, for this extraordinary segment of ON POINT. I heard it in the car, and listened to the evening repeat again, with my husband. So many wonderful twists to the story — as they say, you couldn’t MAKE something like this up. And — aside from my usual end-of-year charitable giving, this story has inspired smaller donations into the buckets of the bell-ringers already holding their places in front of local Stop and Shops’. (However, as a pledge producer, I couldn’t help thinking that it’s too bad public television and radio stations couldn’t have a benefactor today like Mr. B.Virdot!)

  • http://yahoo.com Ali Habibi, Nashville Tennessee

    This was a great radio program. Tom and the producers did such a great job of delivering the story that the one hour produced moments that rival those that take a great novel or any good book to do. I was deeply moved. I felt like I got reacquainted with humanity afresh, and liked what I saw. Thanks for a great show. A great program. I would nominate it for a prize in broadcasting, if I could, that is.

  • jim frank

    I want to play “Good deeds in Hard Times” for my family at Christmas time. (On Point Nov 12). I subscribe to On Point via ITunes but this episode is no longer available. I dont have time to order a CD and we wont have web access. So I need to download to my computer now. Any ideas on how to help?

    PS: I live in Italy as the gmail address suggests

    Many thanks for great podcasts

ONPOINT
TODAY
Sep 2, 2014
U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., talks with Mark Wilson, event political speaker chairperson, with his wife Elain Chao, former U.S. Secretary of Labor, at the annual Fancy Farm Picnic in Fancy Farm, Ky., Saturday, August 4, 2012. (AP)

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On Labor Day, we’ll check in on the American labor force, with labor activist Van Jones, and more.

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