My husband—he was such a great principal and tonight I had another reminder of why. Our church has been having soup suppers each week and inviting anyone in the community who wants to come. We have enjoyed this activity no end and have several people who join us regularly, to eat and to visit. Tonight, someone who really needed help came, along with others. This person asked for Max, who had been there earlier to set up the tables and had gone on an errand. The person was nervous—who wouldn’t be to come into an unfamiliar place and ask for help?! We, meaning me and some of the other workers, greeted the new person, trying to be helpful and calming. Just then, Max came back. He got a bowl of soup and sat down next to our guest, chatting in a kind and friendly manner. The guest began to relax and enjoy the meal. Max asked about how we could help and a conversation developed. Soon, we were all chatting and joking. After our guest left, Max had several ideas about how we could help this person.
When I encounter very needy people, my heart is full of compassion. But, I am afraid–I am so frightened that I do not know what to do or say. I think I will be too condescending or too bossy—or too friendly or too helpful. I am not sure what to say or do or how to show proper respect. Max knows exactly what to say and to do. He talks in a friendly and conversational manner, making the person feel reassured and comfortable. And then Max thinks up things to do, to help–useful and practical things. Max experienced hardship and poverty in his youth, growing up on their family farm in Sullivan County, Indiana, late in the Depression. They weren’t destitute, but his father drank up money that should have been used to help raise his family. Max went to college on a dream and a prayer, working his way though Indiana State. Hard as this early start was, instead of making him bitter, Max’s struggles made him compassionate and caring. He began his career as a teacher and coach, and later was the principal of Salem High School for twenty-seven years. In his long years at SHS, he helped many students; it gave him particular satisfaction to help poor students to attend college on a scholarship or to help them get a job. Later, when he worked in real estate, he often gave up part of his commission to help needy clients—and he gave mountains of free advice and help to clients and people in need.
Max has a new project. He and his long-time friend and fellow coach Verne Ratliff gardened last summer and are planning another garden this year. They want to sell some vegetables, but they also plan to give vegetables to their friends and to the Washington County Food Bank. Nothing gives Max more pleasure than helping other people; he has a big heart.