Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: WASTE (10/11/18)
TITLE: Which Life Was Wasted?
By Mariane Holbrook
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Their parents provided a stable environment for their five children in a small Pennsylvania village with a population of 1200. Everyone who knew the boys would likely have agreed with the principal's assessment.
Ervin, three years older than Bud, excelled in everything he put his hand to. After graduating from high school and college in the 1920s, Ervin was recruited by IBM in Endicott, New York, where he climbed the corporate ladder in record time to become a vice-president.
He married the daughter of prominent physician and soon was accepted into the country club social set, with all the privileges and amenities it provided. Ervin and his wife had one son who was sent to boarding school, then on to an Ivy League college.
The couple were often mentioned in the local newspaper's Society Page for having attended parties and charity balls for the elite of the city.
Their financial portfolio grew and grew, commensurate with the regular raises in salary Ervin received from helping to bring success to IBM.
From all appearances, the school principal's earlier prophecy concerning Ervin had come true and exceeded even the principal's expectations. Ervin was both successful and wealthy.
In contrast, Bud was forced to quit school after completing eighth grade, when his father died suddenly of a heart attack and Bud's mother needed help raising the younger children. Bud found work laying creosote-soaked ties on the railroad for $1.12 an hour in summer's blistering heat and in winter's bone-chilling cold.
Bud developed a close relationship with his mother, a godly woman who conducted a neighborhood Bible study every Tuesday night in her living room. It was during one of the Bible studies that Bud asked for prayer and placed his faith in Christ.
After the last of his siblings had completed school and were married, Bud cared for his mother until her death from pneumonia. He and his sister were the only children who shared their parents' faith.
Bud soon married a young woman he'd met at a Baptist church he attended, and together they raised seven children, several of whom were born during the Great Depression. Because so many workers were being laid off, Bud was grateful for his job on the railroad and worked there all his adult life.
Times were hard during the Depression. Bud's wife was bedridden for many years with pernicious anemia and crippling arthritis, but the couple never wavered from their faith in God. The children walked two miles with Bud to church twice each Sunday and again on Wednesday nights for prayer meeting.
One tragic day, Bud fell from an engine on which he was working and broke his back. He was laid off from his job with no benefits. Even with the older children taking any job they could find to help support the family, the day finally came when Bud fell so far behind with his mortgage payments that the bank threatened to take possession of their modest house.
In desperation, Bud phoned his brother Ervin to explain his destitute condition and asked to borrow $500 to pay off the mortgage.
"Absolutely not," Ervin replied. "If you hadn't given money to your church all these years, you would have already owned your house. I'm sorry but I can't help you, Bud."
The bank repossessed the house and the family moved into a small rental property. Bud, with his gracious, humble spirit never held that refusal against his wealthy brother and the next time they met, Bud met him with a warm hug.
Bud worked hard to put all seven of his children through college. Two were missionaries, one, a pastor's wife, one, a teacher, one, a bank manager, one, a business owner and the youngest, vice-president of Standard and Poor, Inc in New York.
Overflowed crowds attended the funeral of the godly, loved and respected Bud.
Ervin, an avowed atheist, died a bitter, lonely man shortly after his wife's death. His only son, an alcoholic, spent years in one rehabilitation facility after another.
The burning question became: Which life was a waste?
I feel I know the answer. Bud was my dad.
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