Family Life

My Father’s Story: How a Small Kindness Can Make a Lifelong Impact

posted: 12/02/11
by: Michelle Duggar
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12.2.11

Around this time of year when the weather gets cooler where we are in Arkansas, there are a lot of homeless people, as well as people with different situations who just need help.

Oftentimes our family serves at a soup kitchen or a ministry where they give out bags of food to needy families in our area. And we'll help put those bags of food together and distribute them, among other things.

There are a lot of reasons why serving the community is important to me, but one of them has to do with my father. His father died when he was 4 years old and my father's mother had four babies all under the age of 5, all born pretty close together. And this was when our country was going through the Great Depression and things were so bad. There wasn't work, so my father's mother put the kids in a children's home so that they could at least have meals and food to survive.

I'm sure there are a lot of stories like that from the Great Depression. But I remember my daddy telling me about the years that he spent in the children's home. When Grandma remarried she took the children back and they had a home again. But for eight years, from 4 to 12, my father lived in a children's home. And his mama would come and visit him and his siblings all the time and did what she could to provide for them, but she was barely surviving herself.

My dad said the one thing he never forgot was that the Salvation Army would bring the kids a gift for Christmas. The kids worked hard in the children's home - the boys would dig ditches or go out and work in the community - and the only present that they got for Christmas was the gift that was given by the Salvation Army people, and he never forgot this kindness and always appreciated the Salvation Army for what they did when he was a little boy.

His memories of that time in the children's home were so vivid. He would talk about how his mama would save up and buy him essentials like clothing. But as far as a toy went -- that was just a luxury. I had my dad tell our kids this story until he passed away last year. And when he lived with us the kids would always ask him, "Grandpa, will you tell us stories of when you were a little boy?"

You just never know how people, ministries and organizations are going to impact someone's life. That person will not forget what you've done. They may not know you, but it's not you that it's about; it's just the fact that somebody cared enough to invest in their lives and showed them love at a time when things were really difficult.

My dad was such a hard worker -- family meant the world to him. I was the seventh baby - the last-and my mother had me just after she turned 40. She was one of those high-risk pregnancy moms, and I'm so grateful she had me. My mom and dad made a happy home for us, and I'm so grateful for that, and so grateful for family stories to share. I pray my children are catching those lessons, not just from Mom and Dad, but from grandparents and everyone else in their lives.

If we don't share with our kids the struggles we've been through they're not going to understand a lot of what makes us who we are, where we come from, and why we've got some pretty strong beliefs about certain things. That's why we say, "Turn off the TV and spend time together talking, play board games."

Photo credit: Frederic Lewis/Getty Images

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