From having it all to having nothing

“Everybody says, ‘oh, to be a kid again.’ And then they tell the kid to set the table and clean up the room and then they go drive somewhere and do what they want to do.”

- from Kids, a collection, edited by Marc Wieberg





While many might wish to be a child again, I am not one of them.

I have often observed what is going on in the world today and said I wish beyond any wishes that children and teens didn’t have to be witnessing the horrors of our world.

Wide divide. I think that, aside from the conflicts everywhere in the world, the one thing I have noticed about today’s kids is the wide gap between those who seemingly have everything and those who have nothing.

When I was in school, it wasn’t nearly as evident who had money and who struggled to get by. Today, designer everything has changed all of that.

And now the toys that teens and tweens wish for have gotten bigger, more glamorous, much more expensive: cellular phones and all sorts of computerized gadgets that can do more things than I could have ever dreamed up even in my dreamiest phase of my teen years.

Many have fancy vanity plates and a sharp new car to put them on.

A hungry child. Not long ago, I helped serve a dinner for those in need, and it is beyond question one of the hardest things in the world to see a hungry child.

That night, one little boy came up to me and said, “Thank you. The dinner was very good.” I talked with him for a little bit and as he walked away, I couldn’t help but wonder how this all comes to be. How did that little boy get there, and how did I get to be here?

Getting ahead? The old adage about working hard and getting ahead has always sounded so good, but in today’s world, is it always true? Has it ever been totally, undeniably true?

And is it ever, ever fair that children are put in the position of going hungry if they had the luck of the draw to be born in to a family with tough luck and empty cupboards?

Alexander Smalley. Taking a page from a very personal history book – the diary of Alexander Smalley – things have always gone awry, even for the hardest-working among us, and it didn’t take long, even in his day, to feel the pinch of bad business breaks.

Alexander Smalley had decided to start up a livery business in downtown Ashland after having left his family farm south of that town. He realized that people needed a place to board their horses for the day when they traveled in to town for business.

He saw a niche and filled it in March 1890.

Booming to bust. On Sept. 4 of that year he writes, “Third day of the Fair. The biggest crowd ever through here. … had over 100 horses in by noon. Had to turn away some. Receipts about $25.”

Additional diary entries over the next several years show that business was booming. But as January 1902 opens, Smalley writes, “Talked over financial situation with Anna. Hope to arrange for a better condition of things in the near future.”

As the railroad began to replace the necessity for horses, Smalley had gone from being the most envied businessman around to one of the poorest, practically overnight.

His wife and three daughters were in that sinking boat right along with him.

Next week: Part two

About the Author

Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, in college. More Stories by Judith Sutherland

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