The little boy had suffered several days from a high fever. Finally his mother gave in to his pleas to go outside.

The little boy had suffered several days from a high fever. Finally his mother gave in to his pleas to go outside.

However, after taking only a few steps on the path leading to the front door he fell down and couldn’t get up. When his mother picked him up she noted that his spine was curiously curved and he was in severe pain. The year was 1933, the worst year of the Great Depression, and the father, even though he was a trained cabinet maker, had been out of work for several months. The family’s only recourse was to take the little boy to the “county hospital,” which accepted welfare patients.

However, the hospital, for whatever reason, turned the mother and child away. Having no other options the mother, carrying her 5-year-old son, walked several miles back to her home. That is where her neighbor, Mrs. Barker, found her in tears.

Mrs. Barker, although also relatively poor, was quite pretty and she owned a car. Upon hearing the mother’s story, she put mother and child in her car and announced very firmly that the child needed medical care and she was driving the two of them back to the hospital.

Upon their arrival, the hospital again tried to turn them away. However, this time Mrs. Barker raised her voice, and using some very unladylike language, insisted that the child be admitted to the hospital to be seen by a doctor. She further announced that if they didn’t, she was a paramour to several of the medical staff and if the hospital knew what was good for both the institution and its staff, they had better fulfill her wishes. Desirous to quell what was fast becoming a very uncomfortable situation, they admitted the little boy.

Various tests, including a spinal tap, confirmed that the little boy was suffering from spinal meningitis. The doctors advised the mother that they feared her son, at best, would become a paraplegic and never walk again, but pledged to do their best. The little boy spent the next eight months in the hospital, much of the time painfully strapped to a gurney with weights strapped to his head and legs to help straighten out the spine.

His mother, seeing his pain and considering the dire prognosis, once prayed for his release.

During the long ordeal, two elders from Independence, Mo., who shared the boy’s grandfather’s faith, anointed his head with consecrated oil and prayed for God’s healing powers.

For reasons beyond human comprehension, the little boy was healed. In fact, in high school he became the school’s top heavyweight boxer.

Such an experience makes one very appreciative of living in a nation that extends welfare services to its poor; particularly to children of the poor. As Jesus and other holy persons have noted, the real measurement of the worth of a nation is not the amount of gold in its vaults or the bombs in its arsenal, but in how it responds to the needs of its most vulnerable citizens.

I strongly subscribe to that view, maybe because I was the little boy in this true story.