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A Spiritual Autobiography
How God fulfilled the faith-based hopes
of an ordinary guy from Jersey City
God Uses Ordinary People
to Fulfill the Hopes of Other Ordinary People
In my pre-teen years, when I was growing up in Jersey City, I totally relied on my parents to provide me with everything I needed and wanted, alonvg with money I received as birthday and Christmas gifts from my close relatives. So during those years I never thought about having a job to earn money. However, the time came when I wanted some things my mother wasn’t willing to buy for me. Nothing all that expensive, but some things that would cause my mother to say to me “money doesn’t grow on trees”. A bottle of soda from the candy store around the corner now and then was okay, but a soda every day was something else.
When I was older I realized that my parents had experienced the Great Depression of the 1930s, when people had to save every last penny that they could. However, in my childhood years I continued to ask my mother for money to buy those extra sodas and other things like that. Each time I hoped she would relent and give me what I saw was just a few cents that I needed. But as far as I could see, my hopes were not being fulfilled. At the time I didn’t see that God might have been using my mother to teach me a lesson about the difference between hope and wishful thinking. It would take another 50 years or so for me to realize that.
Anyway, when I was about 11 or 12 years old my mother came up with an idea to deal with my “need” for more money than she was willing to give me. She gave me a job. My job was to do some house cleaning. Every time I dusted or vacuumed in a room, or washed the dishes, or did some other routine household chore, she would pay me what she thought was fair for that particular chore. I don’t remember that the pay was very much, but it was enough to assure that some of my hopes for the money I wanted were being fulfilled. Again, I didn’t ever consider that God might have been involved in this, or what would happen next.
When I turned 13 my mother’s brother, my Uncle Bill (Wiliam J.Ochs,Jr.), who owned an electrical contracting business, hired me for a part time after school job to do some routine cleaning in his shop and store and wash his trucks every week. For this I received a salary. It wasn’t much, but enough to get more of those little things that I felt I must have. More of my hopes were being fulfilled. But again, I didn’t see God involved in any of this.
I was still only age 13 when I entered Lincoln High School. Now I began to want some things that were beyond what I could buy with the pay from my part-time job. And I noted that my new best friend also had apart-time job, and he was being paid a lot more than I was. So I wanted a job like that. But to have that kind of job you had to have “working papers” from the city authorities, and to do that you had to be at least 14 years old, as was my friend. Today I realize that God chose that time and situation to help me learn about the need for patience when it comes to your hopes being fulfilled.
Soon after I turned 14 I got my working papers and an after school job (including a half day Saturday).which I had already been promised by Ralph Underwood, who operated the corner drug store which bore his name, on the corner of West Side and Lexington Avenues, about a block away from my home. The job included cleaning the store and sometimes waiting on customers, but the primary purpose was to deliver prescriptions to customers.
Just before I was hired, the first minimum wage law took effect. I believe the minimum wage at that time was set at one dollar an hour, which told me that I would be paid about 15 dollars a week. However, I quickly learned that I wasn’t going to be paid that amount. It turned out that the minimum wage didn’t apply to small businesses like Mr. Underwood’s. I believe I ended up with 75 cents an hour, or about 11 dollars a week plus tips, which probably brought the average total to about $15 per week. It immediately enabled me to have some of those things I saw as needed over the past few years. My hopes were being fulfilled, but still – I didn’t see that God was in any way involved.
I kept that job for the next three years, until a few months before I enlisted in the U.S.Navy, which was my first full-time job. I don’t recall anything much about working in that job as the delivery boy. For the most part it was very routine. Except for one thing that has remained in my memory for over 50 years.
I found that the usual tip for a delivery of a prescription to someone’s home was 25 centswas 25 cents (this was in the 1950s). Occasionally, the tip would be 50cents or even a dollar. However, at the other extreme, there was one elderly lady who I delivered to at least once a week. She always thanked me profusely and let me know how happy she was to give me this nickel tip. At first I resented that she was so “cheap”. But then I realized that, like so many Americans, including my own family, she had also experienced hard times during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when a nickel was probably a generous tip. And, like myself today, she probably found it difficult to imagine that inflation had significantly increased tips for delivery boys, along with the items being delivered. I’m sure she really did believe that she was giving me a generous tip.
I also came to realize something else about this lady. She always invited me to have a seat in her kitchen. Then she would tell me about things which didn’t really mean much to me. She would tell me the same things over and over again. At first, this bothered me because it was taking up a lot of time, which made it difficult to get to other customers before my usual quitting time. So I would end up working late. But then, just as I came to accept the idea that she honestly thought she was being generous with the nickel tip, I came to understand that there was a reason that I ended up always sitting in her kitchen and listening to her talk for an extended period of time.
I realized that she experienced my delivery as a personal home visit. More and more, it sounded like my time with her was the highlight of of her life for the week. She was a very lonely person. So I came to see my presence with her, not as an inconvenience to be endured, but as the right thing to do. And many years later, when I began to understand how God often works with through, and for people, I realized that every day that elderly woman must have been hoping that someone would pay her a visit. I don’t know if she prayed about this, but now I know that God knew what she was hoping for, and that her hope for a visit was part of God’s will for her, and while I didn’t know it at the time, God was using this ordinary teenage kid to fulfill the hopes of this little old ordinary woman. At the same time, again unknown to her or me at the time, God was using this woman to fulfill my yet to be formed hope that God would use me to participate in fulfilling his will, his plans , and his purposes.
There are a lot of things about how God works in peoples lives that we don’t know as he is doing his work. But at the same time, I now do know without a doubt, from my own experience and that of others, that God uses ordinary people like you and me to fulfill the hopes of other ordinary people likeyou and me, in his time and in his way.
Grace and peace, Ray
Thanks for your attention. We look forward to hearing your comments about our web-site. We also invite you to send us stories of your experiences and observations of present hopes and hope fulfilled, so we can spread them around the world via this web-site. This is one way we can all join together to help keep hope alive.
May God be with you,
Patty Perez and Ray Gough