On the drive home from a speaking engagement in Savannah, I answered a call from Tink, who sounded fairly frantic.
Whenever possible, he travels with me. But for that trip, he was on deadline with a movie script so he had stayed home and stayed up all night, working against the hours that were ticking down. In a somewhat high-pitched voice, he sputtered out the problem.
Rodney had called. My brother-in-law. He asked Tink if he would come and help him load hay. Rodney never asks for help. He always gives it.
“I had to tell him ‘no’ because I have to get this script in.” Tink felt awful. Especially because he always tells Rodney, “Call me anytime.”
“Okay, let me see if I can find someone.” I pulled off the highway and into the parking lot of a Taco Bell where I sat and tried to think who I could call to help. Ten minutes went by and I couldn’t think of anyone. What happened to the days when there were neighbors to call or teenage boys looking to make a few dollars?
I snapped my fingers and called a friend who lives nearby, who gladly and immediately said, “I’ll go right now.”
Rodney, though, had already found someone who would help him for pay so it was all handled. On the remainder of the drive, I thought long and hard. In a moment of need, I had difficulty thinking of someone to help. Even for money.
Then, I thought about Ruby Gooch and my sister, Louise. Whenever they see a need, they don’t wait to be asked. They do whatever it takes. Particularly when it comes to cooking. Miss Ruby is one of the people I most adore. I sit beside her in the church choir and she usually sits with me and Tink for preaching.
She’s over 80, let’s just say, with the twinkling blue eyes and strawberry blonde hair of the Scotch-Irish Jarrards, her people. Daddy’s grandmother was one of those Jarrards. On the other side of the family, Miss Ruby’s mother-in-law was the sister to my grandmother and Aunt Fairy, of whom I’ve told you so much. My high school friend, Karen, is married to Miss Ruby’s son, Rickey.
This is, remember, the South where there is no more than three degrees of separation and where double first cousins are not uncommon.
Louise, of course, has some of the same blood as Miss Ruby. They’re both to be counted on to push up their sleeves and do whatever is needed. At the end of a long work day – Miss Ruby has been doing hair for many a-year and Louise is a postmaster – they think nothing of putting in a few more hours to help a neighbor. A death or illness? Miss Ruby will bake up one of her famous cakes and Louise will likely make a pork loin or a huge pan of her special chicken pot pie.
They wear me out. Every time I talk to one of them, she is telling me all the food she’s cooking for a funeral, a church event, or someone ailing. And, to be honest, they’ve helped to make me a better person than I’d been without their influences. Oh, I’ll never come close to doing all they do but because of women like Miss Ruby and Louise, I think outside of myself a bit more and I bake a few more cakes than I would, otherwise.
When I’m tempted not to get dressed up to go for a brief visit to the funeral home or make a call to see how I can help, I think of the unselfishness of those two and how a lot of work is never too much for either of them.
Now, if we could just teach them how to get up hay, we’d have it made.
[Ronda Rich is the best-selling author of “What Southern Women Know.” Visit www.rondarich.com to sign up for her free weekly newsletter.]