In days past, hobos were a common sight in America. They traveled the land using a shared system of easy-to-understand signs and symbols to find food and lodging. These simple drawings were carved into signs and nailed to trees, scratched into fence posts, or chalked on the pavement in front of houses to advise or warn those who might follow. The symbol of the smiling cat meant a “Kind-hearted woman” lived there. The kindhearted woman symbol was a high compliment, used to denote that this was a home where a weary traveler could count on a friendly smile or handshake, a place to rest their weary bones, and many times, food to fill their empty stomachs.
My Granny was one such woman designated as “kind-hearted” by these travelers. She would greet anyone in need as a friend, offer a cool drink and a porch to sit and rest upon, and feed anyone a good hot meal for dinner. Then my Grandaddy would let these travelers sleep in his barn, but the rule was they had to leave their tobacco and matches at the house so the hay wasn’t ignited, and his barn burned down. Following a good night’s rest, my Granny would feed them a hot breakfast with her wonderful, made-from-scratch biscuits, and send them along on their ways, along with a couple of extra biscuits for their hobo “sack” to see them through the day to the next kindhearted woman.
This was in the dark days of the Great Depression of the 1930s, and my grandparents were poor, and lived in very rural Lawrence County, Alabama. But they always felt they were among the fortunate … they had a garden and chickens and a house and a barn … and they then chose to share in their bounty with both neighbors and strangers alike.
I take great pride in my name. For you see, I had it legally changed to reflect my Granny’s maiden name. My Granny was someone I continue to look to for inspiration, and I take great pride in knowing that I come from a long, powerful line of strong, yet extremely kind-hearted women. I try to conduct my own behavior each and every day in a manner that would only make her proud of me.
Perhaps we as Americans should look to our own past generations and learn the lessons they tried to teach us by their example. There are still many kindhearted women and men out there, and they’re doing what they can to help the unfortunate with the often limited resources they have available.
I ask of each of you, would you deserve this great compliment if these signs still were common sights today?