During this time of unprecedented disruption of our lives due to the global pandemic, many human-interest stories we hear are very positive as people try to offer help to others.  However, media outlets continue to report disheartening examples of extreme hoarding and blatant greed of people trying to capitalize on this crisis.

Recently, a cousin shared with me a century old letter written to her great grandmother from her twin sister about how her small Texas community dealt with the horrible flu pandemic of 1918.   The human kindness articulated in this inspiring letter contains many positive messages and examples that will help us get through our own pandemic.     

Writers note:  I am publishing this letter as written with misspelled words and all. Also, the date on the letter is illegible; however, it appears to be October 25, 1919.  This was amid an influenza plague that killed an estimated 50 to 100 million people worldwide.   

Dear Martha,

God bless us all.  Bobby went to the mail today and I received all three of your sweet letters. We have been in quarantine for almost a month and just yesterday we got word that the plague had lifted. The immediate news is for the most part we were spared.  Just a minor case here.  

Everybody is still talking about why our town got hit so hard.  Doc Bradly thinks it started at The Summer Festivel [sic].   The town square was filled with more people than ever before.  Less than a week later Lucy Shelton lost her little Annie who was one of my third graders. Before it was over her two other children died and her mother also died.  She had already lost her Elroy in a combine accident two years earlier. Bless her soul.

Looking at Lucy, I know what our daddy meant when he always said tragedies brings out the best in folks. When the plague hit Lucy had already done her winter canning mostly fig and peach preserves.  When word got out lots of people were running out of food, she put them in smaller jars and placed um out by the street for people to take.   With her family gone Lucy said she had no use for them and just wanted to share.  

I guess you remember Mr. Jonas down on the corner who always gave us the vegtables [sic].  He is fighting in France but before he left, he got his huge fall garden in.  His wife Cora got the word out for everyone to just come help themselves to whatever they needed.  Bobby and I watched it from the kitchen window and just like at Lucy’s everyone entered the garden one at a time and nobody took more than they needed.  I understand the McShane’s over on Sycamore did the same.

We were ordered to stay in our home with doors and windows shut though we did go out a little.  Most of our news came from Billy Johnson who works for Sherriff Owens.  Every three or four days he would leave a mason [sic] of kerosene or turpentine on the front steps.  We were instructed to wipe everything down with it.  The kitchen counter, the table and the floor.  Doc Bradly said we also needed to constantly wash our hands with soap and hot hot water.  We were good there because I had made my soap at the end of August. When Billy hollered through the door people were running out of soap, I got busy with all the Lye I had left over and just kept the batches coming.  I had to cook it on the stove so I don’t know if we will ever get the smell out. We boxed them up and Billy delivered to folks who was out.  I was just glad we could do something.

I have got to sign off now, but I just wanted to let you know we are blessed and okay. 

All my love to you and Roy,

Milly 

Mark Lehman recently retired from the Vice President of Governmental Affairs as the Texas Association of REALTORS®.  In this position, he is responsible for coordinating all legislative and political activities related to the Texas Real Estate Political Action Committee (TREPAC) and the 120,000 member association. Lehman’s primary focus is centered on legislation that directly affects the real estate industry and the rights of private-property owners in Texas.

Prior to joining the Texas Association of REALTORS®, Lehman served as campaign director for U.S. Sen. John Cornyn’s successful campaign for Texas attorney general.  He has served as chief-of-staff for a Texas State Senator and worked for 3 U.S. Congressmen in Washington, D.C.   He is a veteran of more than a dozen political campaigns and has been featured in the New York TimesWashington PostAustin American-Statesman and the Dallas Morning News.

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