There’s a photo floating around on Facebook right now—a tiny piece of social commentary titled, “Necessity.” It juxtaposes two scenes—one of starving children in Africa, most likely, up against several sour-looking women, their arms and carts overflowing with ridiculously unnecessary purchases at a big box store. It cuts right to the core, and reminded me of this book I read last year, which is equally profound.
Author Ted Gup wrote a book several years back that I found fascinating—Book of Honor, which detailed the stories behind the stars on the wall at CIA headquarters. “A Secret Gift” came about when Gup discovered his grandfather was an anonymous benefactor during a Depression Christmas in Canton, Ohio. His grandfather took out an ad and told people if they sent him a request he deemed worthy, he would give them $5. Gup’s grandfather saved the letters, and the author painstakingly fleshes out the story behind them, in most cases tracing families to modern times.
It’s a dry read, for certain—not one you can pull out and read easily from while sitting around the fire with your little ones on your lap. But if you like sociology, it paints a heartfelt portrait of what the Depression was truly like—not something we hear about often, given that generation is fading away. And maybe this time of year, when we’re all stressed about creating the perfect family holiday, a little perspective couldn’t hurt.
A Secret Gift