Helping hands

Helping hands

Editor's Note: This is an ongoing series which runs each Thursday morning titled the Richland Chronicles, by author Paul Lintern. It is set in the 1800s and tells the story of Richland County through the eyes of young people. The books are available from Lintern for $25 a set, tax and shipping included. Each book is about 120 pages written for intermediate readers (4th grade) with local illustrations. Volume I is Amelia Changes Her Tune. Volume II is Isaac and Wolf Paw Find Their Home. Volume III is Autumn Keeps Her Secret. Volume IV is Mr. Gamble Starts a School. Volume V is Jacob Blows his Horn. Volume VI is Cassie Fights the WarVolume VII is Emilene Adopts Her Family. Volume VIII is David Dances the Bases.

I can’t believe all that money is all ours. We are rich, rich, rich.

“Out of that terrible crime by some Rebel spy has come a real blessing for our family, but I think it is also a big responsibility.”

Mama was repeating what she had said at the fountain dedication picnic, before she insisted that the topic be closed until the family could meet in private at the Zimmerman home, later in the afternoon.

I’m ready for some of that ’sponsibility!

“For whatever reason, we have been entrusted with a large sum that we did not earn and must now keep hidden for the sake of our friends, the government and many who were affected, even if they didn’t know it,” she said.

Hidden? Are we putting it back in the fruit cellar?

“We have always been pleased to work hard to earn what is ours, and even in setbacks, we work extra hard to pick ourselves back up and keep going forward. We learned that from the Zeiters when I was a little girl, and the Zimmermans when Papa was growing up, and they from the generations before them.”

“We know that, Mother, we all have made good lives out of hard work,” Philip said.

“Hard work and creativity. Look at what Natalie, with Lucas’ help, was able to do for our town, and so many were blessed,” Mama said.

And the money is our reward!

“And the money is our test.”

Huh?

“We are hard working, yes; creative, yes, and charitable. This is a time for us to work hard at creatively being charitable.”

What, what what?

“This money does not belong to us, and it will change us for the worse, I think, if we simply spend it on ourselves.”

Won’t change me that much!

“But I think there is a reason why it has landed in our lap. I think we are supposed to use the money to make many good and lasting changes for the people around us.

“Without letting anyone know we are doing it.”

“You mean we don’t spend the money?” Natalie asked

“Just not on us,” Mama replied.

Suddenly Natalie’s eyes brightened.

“A club!”

The rest looked at her puzzled.

“A charity club.”

Silence.

“A secret family charity club.”

Eyes began to sparkle at Natalie.

“Go on,” Uncle Lucas said.

“We all become our own sort of spies, looking around for places that need money, but not just lumps of money, like old rich men give to the YMCA, but little things, lots of little things.

“And then we gather around the dinner table like we do anyway, and we bring up our ideas, and the family votes on them and then we do it.”

Natalie was on a roll.

“But we do it in secret, and everyone helps to pull off the plans so that people get things without knowing where it is coming from. Water bills get paid, and grocery bills, and someone gets a certificate for piano lessons, and the teacher does not know who is paying for it, and certain widows get a basket of flowers delivered at their doorstep, and we each try to outdo each other in how clever is our plan.”

This is fun.

“We can even invest in someone’s business and the money that is made from it can do even more good things, and if we do it right, we will never run out. Papa taught me that.

“Oh, and we should have special projects where everyone has a part, and we ‘invade’ a whole family, or business, or part of town with our good deed.

“And no one knows.”

Natalie smiled.

Mother, are you crying?

“How did we get this amazing little girl?” Mother was saying to everyone.

“She’s a Zeiters all right,” Mama said.

“And a Zimmerman,” Mother added.

“And half Burns,” Father chimed in.

“The fact is, Natalie, you are the best part of all of us, at least that’s what has surfaced,” Uncle Lucas suggested.

“Everyone gets the good, and perhaps not-so-good, of everyone in the family, but we each are responsible for what surfaces. You, Dear Niece, Dear Great Niece, bring the best of all of us to the surface. “

Natalie blushed, and beamed, and then blushed again.

“I still wouldn’t mind spending some of it for myself,” she confessed.

Everyone burst out laughing.