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A man and boy with a dog standing in front of a house

Greg’s Hope

“I’d miss breakfast or dinner… that’s so we could have enough food to last.”

Greg is a really special kid with an amazing outlook on life. Even though he’s only 8 years old, he has big plans for his future. He loves science, and dreams of becoming a physicist when he grows up. He likes to help his dad with cooking, but sometimes supplies run short. “I wish there was more food in the refrigerator,” Greg tells us, “I wish there was ham or chicken… sometimes it gets really low.”

John is a single parent in his 60s. He works hard to provide for his son, cutting tobacco, raising vegetables, and hunting for game when the season is good. Though John is disabled from years of working grueling labor jobs, he doesn’t feel sorry for himself. Everybody in the area is in the same situation. “We are proud people.  We don’t like to share our problems with other people,” he told us.  “There’s times when money is so tight, you just don’t know what to do.  You do whatever you can do to make ends meet.”

Greg and John live in a house that is over 100 years old, in one of the poorest counties in America. In most parts of our country, their house would be condemned. The wood is peeling, the windows are cracked, and the water well often runs dry. Indoor plumbing is a recent addition; until recently, they used an outhouse. Inside, the house is fairly neat and organized: the shelves are lined with books, and an old wood stove keeps things warm in the winter.

This father and son share a special bond that transcends their circumstances. It’s clear to anyone watching how much they love each other. When Greg is in the room, John grumbles about how the boy is easily distractible, he doesn’t help enough around the house, and so on. But there’s a strong undercurrent of affection in everything John says. And when Greg leaves, John opens up.

“I can’t keep up with him all the time… but it keeps my mind alert and keeps my mind going. So the way I look at it, even if these legs and body start falling apart, he’s going to keep my mind going for quite a while. And so he’s been good for me. He’s a blessing. A kid could touch your heart in a way that… well, Johnny Cash said it. They can just touch your heart in a way that nobody else can describe. The biggest man in the world’s going to fall down to love.”

“If I can give nothing else to this world, at least let me give a good son. A son that’s a benefit to the world. I mean, I’m a poor man. My life’s half over.” John chuckles.

“As long as he tells stories about me, I ain’t dead. I’m still alive in the world somewhere. As long as somebody that I helped or touched in a good way has something nice to say or does that to somebody else, then you’re starting a chain of love. You’re starting a chain of good deeds. And if everybody does that, the world’s going to be a heck of a lot better place than what it is right now.”

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