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Brody: Wishing for more honor, decency in the world

Sometimes, when I sit down on my writing day, which is Saturday, my mind won’t travel like it usually does.

Many of my columns are about memories that now I see as life lessons.

From way back in 1994, I remembered a life lesson all of us can relate to.

It’s about honor and decency, two words I rarely hear.

The dictionary says honor involves one whose work is recognized and respected. It says decency is holding oneself to a high standard of living.

I want to tell you a true story of a man I truly respected and loved.

The year was 1918, and thousands died in the terrible flu epidemic in this country.

There were no antibiotics and just about the only drug to fight the symptoms was aspirin, a drug rumored to be made and laced with poison by the Germans.

I have a deep affection for my father in law, J. Henry Brody, who lived with us on the farm up until a move to a nursing home became necessary.

The facility was on Ameilia Island, where we owned a home. So we drove back and forth from Kentucky to Florida to be with him.

Except for all the driving, I looked forward to our visits, partly because of the great stories he always told me.

One day, sitting in the room with Grandpa in his wheelchair and I in the closest chair to him, he told me a wondrous true story of what happened during the flu epidemic.

His father, Israel Brody, owned a drugstore in Boston and, at that time, all medications had to be made and mixed by the hand of the pharmacist.

Boston was as hard hit as the rest of the country, and people were desperate to ease their loved ones’ suffering.

They came to Grandpa’s father’s pharmacy for whatever he could sell them.

Next to his drugstore was a tailor shop, and the owner, tired and overworked trying to care for his family, fell prey to the flu.

Israel Brody prepared all his medications to help him, and the cost came to $84, a lot of money then.

Within a few days, the tailor died.

The day after the funeral, his two daughters came into the drug store and they said, “We want you to know, Mr. Brody, that you will be repaid all we owe you, but we don’t have money now.”

Keep in mind there were many situations where the people could not pay.

Grandpa told me then that the tailor too was a very poor man. However he said to the daughters, “Are there any of the meds left over?”

“Oh yes. Most of it,” they announced.

“Well bring it all back to me and I’ll give you credit for it.”

“But you can’t resell it can you?” they asked

“Certainly I can,” he said. “Bring it.”

When they returned with all of the pills, he announced it reduced their bill to $4.50, which they thankfully said they could afford.

My grandpa shifted in his wheelchair and looked at something far away.

He then said quietly, “And I watched my father pour every bit of those meds down the drain.” Grandpa smiled at that memory.

This story moved me. It has to do with honor and decency.

It crossed my mind that Grandpa had those same rare qualities. As a matter of fact, it runs in the family. My husband, his father and grandfather were exactly the same way.

I said this to Grandpa and do you know what he said? He said, “Yes. If my father was walking down the street and someone who owed him money for meds was coming toward him, he would always cross the street so as not to embarrass that person.”

Honor and decency.

Don’t you wish there were more people like that in the world?

The view from the mountain is wondrous.

Jean Brody is a passionate animal lover and mother. She previously lived in Winchester, but now resides in Littleton, Colorado. Her column has appeared in The Sun for more than 25 years.