Fair Isn’t Always Right

Over the years, people learned to expect periodic flooding. Usually, it caused little damage, and within a day or two everything was back to normal. Even when there was a little more water, the damage wasn’t serious. 

The last flood was a bit unusual. As a result, it left a fair amount of damage in its wake.  Fortunately, no one was killed or injured.  Shortly after the flood waters receded, both paid crews and volunteers were there to make repairs, rebuild, and set things right.   Within a month or so, you’d never have known that a flood had come through. That is unless you visited Edgewood Park. As its name implies, it was a small park on the edge of the woods, just west of the town.  It had a uniquely kind history, dating back to the Great Depression.  

Nearly a hundred years ago, shortly before the stock market crash 1929, a family opened a small amusement park on that site. The park struggled during the Depression, but made it through.  The owners also had a farm, from which they made home deliveries of milk, eggs, and whatever vegetables were in season. With the combination of the two, they held onto the farm and park.  

Entrance to the park was free. All you paid for were rides and refreshments. Rides were five cents, and for a quarter you could ride all day. A hot dog and a pop were a dime, popcorn was a nickel, and penny candy was, well, a penny.  As the Depression dragged on, rides were three cents, and you could ride all day for a dime.  As for the refreshments, the prices stayed the same, but there was an unspoken policy. If you could pay, you did. If you couldn’t pay full price, you paid what you could. And if you couldn’t pay at all, that was okay too. The owners built picnic tables around the back edge of the park so families could come, bring their own food, and still enjoy day at the park. When it closed in the mid-60s, the rides were dismantled and sold, and the land was donated to the city as a site for a public park.  It retained the name Edgewood Park.

The flood damage to the park was all repairable, and there were funds available for materials. What was needed were some willing and capable hands. On a spring weekend almost a year after the flood, a group was organized to provide those hands and get the work done.  They started Friday evening with a planning meeting.  At 7:00 AM Saturday morning they began. Most everyone in the group knew everyone else, that is except for one young man. When the work began, he pitched right in. It was quickly clear this was not the first time he’d handled tools.  

If there was a foreman in the group, it was a local contractor, an older guy, who got everyone organized and set them to work. Throughout the day, he helped where and when he was needed. He was particularly impressed with the work of the young man no one seemed to know.  

The group worked through lunch, taking only enough time for a quick snack. At day’s end, Gus, a local restaurateur, brought subs for the crew. When everyone gathered to eat, the contractor purposefully sat beside the young man. As they talked, he learned that this guy had hit a stretch of bad luck, was homeless, and had few prospects.

The subs had been set out six to a table with six seats per table. There was a sub for everyone, a bag of chips, a gob, and a pop. The young man devoured his food; he hadn’t eaten in a while. The foreman noticed, so instead of taking a sub, he tapped his belly, and said, “Do me a favor and eat this for me. I don’t want Gus to think I’m ungrateful, but I trying to take off a few pounds, what with bathing suit season coming on.” Without hesitation, the young man said thanks, took the sub, and all but inhaled it. The foreman also invited him to come around to his office on Monday morning, if he was looking for work. That day, in that moment, between those two people, a legacy from the original park owners played itself out in real time, nearly a century later.

In an absolutely fair world, everyone at the table would have gotten a sub. But in the real world, the world where fairness isn’t always the best driving force, the needs of one person were graciously meet. The contractor/foreman demonstrated clearly that doing what’s seemingly fair, can pale in comparison to doing what’s genuinely right! 

Leave a kind reply

Scroll to Top