Back in the 1840s in Nauvoo, Illinois, a Mr. Smith happened upon a group of men discussing the tragedy that had befallen a local man that had left his family near destitute. Mr. Smith listened for a moment and then he reached into his pocket and extracted a five dollar gold piece.
“I feel sorry for this man to the amount of five dollars,” he declared. “How much do you gentlemen feel sorry?” He proceeded to take up a collection on the spot which he took to the man to help relieve the suffering.
On a cold winter night near the borders of Utah and Idaho, a military transport plane carrying soldiers returning home from service in the Korean War crashed into the high country of the rugged Wasatch mountain range. Dead in the silent snows were thirty-seven Korean War veterans in addition to the plane’s crew. The fighting men had been on their way home to the Southern States. The removal of the bodies would have to wait until the snow melted in the spring.
It was a shocking tragedy to people everywhere in America. A pall of sadness hung over the little farming towns near the crash scene. People felt sorry all right. No doubt most of them felt there was little they could do. Next of kin would be notified. Neighbors in the Deep South would try to comfort the soldiers’ parents.
However, there was an eighty-year old widow, Laura R. Merrill, living in Logan, Utah, who decided to do more than simply feel sorry. “Thoughtfully, she sat down at her worn little oak writing desk. To the parents of every one of the thirty-seven army victims she penned a personal four-page letter.
“She described the beautiful dairy land near the mountain-rimmed Bear Lake, in the area where the boys had left this life. She told of the kind people who lived there. She assured parents that American soldiers kept constant guard at the crash scene. The Stars and Stripes were there, too. The Logan widow asked the local chamber of commerce to send a booklet on the region to the parents of each victim. She enclosed with each of her letters a poem of tribute written by a man in a neighboring town. It was titled, ‘Home Flight.’”*
Letters of reply began to arrive at Laura Merrill’s little apartment in the rear of a one-story red brick home. They were from grateful parents. One mother in Florida wrote:
“Since you are so kind to write, and as our boy lies near you, I’d like to tell you a little about him.”
She went on to tell how the lad was the youngest of her four sons. He was slender, blue-eyed, and blond. He had known the rigors and terrors of the cold Korean front. He had been happy to have his army service completed. He had looked forward to home and “Mama’s good hot biscuits and strawberries.” The letter ended with, “God bless you and all our faraway friends around there.”
Laura Merrill, the little grey-haired widow, knew the sting of tragedy. It had struck her hard several times in her own life. She had made a practice through the years of being more than just sorry when misfortune had shaken others.
Wendell J. Ashton suggested, “The priest and the Levite probably felt sorry as they passed the wounded traveler along the road from Jerusalem to Jericho. But it remained for the Samaritan to do more than feel sorry.”*
Last week a good woman passed away in the Dallas area. She had been a resident of Blanco in her youth and was to be buried here. A call came to my wife from family members requesting her help in making funeral arrangements. My wife, however, was tending to a terminally ill aunt and found it difficult to respond as she would have liked.
A dear friend, Doris Collins, stepped up and took over the preparations that were so important to the comfort of those coming to town for the burial of their loved one. Not only did she do more than feel sorry, but others in the Blanco Church of Christ community, on very short notice, supplied a place for the family to meet and food to care for their immediate needs. John Kinslow provided much appreciated words of comfort and consolation at the graveside service.
Laura Merrill said that she was never lonesome a minute. She was happy—happy because she knew how to feel more than just sorry.
*(Wendell J. Ashton, Instructor Magazine, May 1953, back cover)
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