Shepherdess: The Tale of a Blessing

The monthly shepherdess column sponsored by Catherine Dower.

Mary Jane Comstock is a free-lance writer living in Sparks, Oklahoma.


Dear Shepherdess: Years ago when our family—parents, brothers, sisters, children, and guests—were together at Thanksgiving time, after the blessing Grandpa Dower would lead us in singing "Praise God from whom all blessings flow." It was indeed a hymn of thanks.

Now, when we are together, we still sing, but a great lump fills my throat. The group is smaller. Thankfulness is still there, for there are still many, many blessings, but memories of yesteryear flood the thoughts. Then reason takes over. We count the present blessings and again rejoice. We exclaim with the psalmist in the 95th Psalm, "O come, let us sing unto the Lord: let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation. Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving, and make a joyful noise unto him with psalms. For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods."

This month we are indebted to Sun shine Magazine for the story "The Tale of a Blessing," by Mary Jane Comstock.

Although an invalid from polio, Mary Jane has pursued a successful writing career. She resides with her parents on an eighty-acre pecan farm in Sparks, Oklahoma.

Happy Thanksgiving and happiness always. With love, Kay.


THE SUN was hiding that Thursday as the wind and leaves danced their last fling before winter, whirling around the snug little homes on Mulberry Street.

Tilda Hawkins stood squinting at the television set as the picture stopped rolling and the clowns and huge balloon figures came into focus. She smiled. "Well," she said briskly, "it's going to be a different Thanksgiving for us, but a nice one."

Her eyes went to the framed photos on the piano. Her own dear Bill was gone now, and the children were married and scattered across the country. "No, it won't be a big celebration, but it will still be Thanksgiving!"

Her remarks were directed to the only other occupant of the room, a large gray-and-white cat dozing contentedly in a chair. "I bought," Tilda continued, "a deluxe TV turkey dinner for myself, and for you, King Rupert, a can of turkey and liver. Rather expensive, but this is Thanksgiving."

She beamed at the cat. "H-m-m, smell that bread?" She hurried to the kitchen just as the timer buzzed. Humming a favorite old church song, Tilda put on oven mitts and lifted out the large pan of light-brown rolls. She sniffed and smiled. Still humming, she turned out the steaming rolls and piled them in a large bowl. Leaving two for herself, she spread a napkin over the heaped rolls and, taking a breath, began to speak.

"Dear Father, thank You for allowing me to continue our custom of giving. Bless this food and bless the ones who receive it. Fill their home and their lives with love as You have always filled mine. Bless everyone, everywhere, on this day." Tilda paused, trembling a bit. "Thank you, Father. Amen."

For a moment she stood there, held by the emotional pull of her concern for others. Then she pulled on a sweater, picked up the bowl and called, "I'll be right back, Rupert."

She darted out her back door and crossed to her neighbor's back door. As she knocked, she heard children's voices, the TV, a dog, and a man's voice. The door was opened by little Nancy Free man, and Tilda wondered how such a tiny woman could have six husky children.

"Mrs. Hawkins!" the little woman cried. "How nice!"

"Can't come in, dear. I just like to share on Thanksgiving." She gave her the rolls. "I hope you enjoy them." With a wave she added, "Happy Thanksgiving," and left.

Nancy pushed the door shut with her foot as she lifted the napkin. "H-m-m, homemade bread."

Dick Freeman walked in. "What did you say?"

"Homemade bread. Mrs. Hawkins brought us some fresh-baked, home made rolls. Take a whiff."

"That was nice of her. Maybe you should have asked her to eat with us." Then he frowned. "No, on second thought, she'd probably rather be alone."

Nancy wasn't listening. "Trouble is," she muttered, "the kids won't eat brown bread. Why don't I take out enough for us and your folks, and you take the rest to the Millers? I could save them, but, somehow, I'd rather share them."

Dick nodded, leaned forward to peck his wife on the cheek. "That's because you are a very nice person."

A moment later, Dick Freeman was crossing the street to the little red brick house. Lettie Miller answered the door but Mel was right behind her. Two white-haired persons peered through two pair of round glasses. "Why, hello, Dick! Do come in," Lettie invited.

"No, thanks. I just brought you some thing to go with your dinner." Dick handed her the bowl and stepped back. "Happy Thanksgiving . . . from all of us." He turned to jog home.

"Oh, Mel, look here! Yeast rolls." She held them up.

Mel nodded. "Delicious!"

She frowned, so he frowned. "But I made bread pudding and that's too much bread for us," she said. Then sh.e brightened. "But, we'll share, too! We'll take our pudding to the Sedbrooks!"

"Outstanding idea," he agreed.

Together they marched to the closet, helped each other with wraps, and walked rapidly next door.

Freckle-faced Jimmy answered the door, followed by Janie, Joel, Junie, Judy, and Irving. Irving was the dog. Judy was Mrs. Sedbrook. "Why, hello," she called. "Come in!"

The Millers stepped inside. Lettie began, "The Freemans were nice enough to give us some homemade bread. I had made a bread pudding though."

Mel picked up the story. "And that's too much bread for us, so we want to give you our pudding."

A deep, male voice said, "Did someone say 'bread pudding'?" Jim Sedbrook appeared.

Judy laughed. "That's his favorite."

Lettie's eyes twinkled. "Do you like it with raisins and some chocolate syrup dribbled through it, and then the egg and milk mixture to pour over it?" She held out a pitcher.

Jim sighed, "Oh boy, do I!"

The Millers both nodded, said "Good," and turned to leave, adding quickly, "Happy Thanksgiving!"

"That was nice of them." Judy paused. "You know, sometimes you begin to wonder." She didn't finish the sentence but just looked at her husband. He nodded. "You wonder if there are any nice people left in the world."

"Yes, people seem so wrapped up in themselves." She took a breath and chewed her lip. "You know, I actually have an extra pie." Her eyes were questioning.

Jim Sedbrook smiled. "Why not?"

A moment later, young Jimmy was on his way to the old two-storied house on the corner where the Eodgers sisters lived. And then it wasn't long until Lucinda Rodgers was going around the corner with a covered dish in her hands, while her sister Durinda was going the other way with a pot of bright-yellow mums.

It kept spreading. Each show of kindness produced more kindness. In the 1400 block of Mulberry Street, a certain landlady who had just acquired a pot of yellow mums invited all her renters to bring their dinners and share her dining room.

Over on 21st Street, a retired teacher was so inspired by the gift of a fruit salad that she took her special cranberry-nut salad to the newlyweds who had just moved next door from another state.

That isn't the end of the tale, of course. An end can never be written, because a blessing once shared never stops. —Sunshine Magazine, November 1975, pp. 17-20.

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Mary Jane Comstock is a free-lance writer living in Sparks, Oklahoma.

November 1976

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