I grew up on a farm in east central Illinois. My dad was a tenant farmer in those days, so we didn’t have a lot of money. It didn’t bother my brother and me very much. We didn’t know we were poor. Poverty doesn’t have a lot of meaning for a kid if he has a roof over his head and plenty of food to eat. Farm kids were lucky that way.
When I was six we moved to a farm that became my home until I was out of high school. We had an outhouse instead of an indoor toilet. We hand-pumped ice-cold water into the house. If I remember correctly, we only had to get through that first winter before my dad and uncle installed indoor plumbing. Judging by my memory of the freezing rim on the metal chamber pot, it was a mighty cold winter. One of my best memories is the one of my mother warming flannel sheets on the oil-burning stove in the living room and racing into the ice-cold bedroom to bundle each of us up against the cold, then piling blankets and quilts on top. It didn’t bother my brother and me that the bedrooms were unheated, as long as we had a mom to tuck us in with heated blankets.
I went to a grade school in a small town at least ten miles from where I lived. My brother and I were the first kids on the bus in the morning and the last off at night. Because of all the farm kids on the route, the trip for us was over an hour each direction. Our school covered first grade through eighth grade, with one teacher for each two grades. The teachers alternated the two classes, and we studied while the other class was in session. We had pencil and paper and books and our minds. We had a ride to school and willing teachers. It never occurred to us we might be deprived because our teachers taught two grades in one room or that some of the books we used were very old.
For kids all around the world, I wish shelter, good food, cozy blankets, a loving mom and dad with high expectations, dedicated teachers, and plenty of books.