During the Second World War I was a little girl, about the age of five. Our American troops were heavily engaged in battle. On the home front, we were encouraged by the president to plant vegetable gardens to feed our families. He called them “victory gardens.” Our troops needed everything we could give them to be victorious in the war. Because of their needs, Americans were placed on rationing. In the spring of 1942, items such as sugar, coffee, butter, cheese, meats, jams, jellies, canned milk, and dried fruits were scarce. If we needed a new tube of toothpaste we had to turn in our empty one, because it was made of metal and scrap metal was recycled into ammunition and vehicle parts. It was an austere time for Americans at home and the antidote to enforced rationing was to cultivate vegetable gardens.
My family included ten children and two adults; that was a lot for which to provide. I was child number nine, and there were two married siblings and one in the U.S. Navy. Our mother was a woman of prayer and with so many mouths to feed, and shoes and clothing to obtain for her growing brood, she had to be resourceful. She would comply with President Roosevelt’s request. We would plant a vegetable garden.
Mother enlisted two of my brothers, who were barely in their teens, to dig a large area for planting our anticipated garden. The digging was done manually, one shovel-full at a time. The digging was laborious and fatiguing for young teenagers. After the dirt clods were broken the raking began. Mother instructed the boys to place a wooden stick in the dirt at each end of the row then stretch twine from one stick to the other in order to make a straight line for planting. This positioning of planting lines went on hour after hour until the entire plot was marked and the planting could begin. They planted rows of sweet corn seeds, green bush beans, red beets, cucumbers, and lots of tomatoes. At the end of the day, the boys were exhausted.
I was enamored with the big garden and begged mother for a little garden of my own. She gave in to my constant chatter and took me outside to mark off a little vegetable patch of my very own. It was only about twelve by twenty-four inches but I was happy and excited as she helped me plant radishes. Impatiently I waited for the first green blades of my plants to peek through the ground. It wasn’t long before I pulled up my first radish and ate it.
Mothers “victory garden” was blooming and small baby vegetables were being produced, however, when the green beans were about two or three inches long, the plants became a magnet for the striped bean beetles. The beetles chewed holes in the leaves and beans. That
really annoyed her as she did not have time to pull them off by hand and would not use pesticides. Soon she had a wonderful idea that would serve three purposes at one time.
Mother asked me if I wanted to earn some pennies. Yes, of course I did. My task was to take an empty fruit jar, go out to the bean patch, and collect all the beetles I could. For every beetle I caught she would pay me one penny! Happy and excited to earn some money, I dashed out the door with my jar in hand. After an hour or so I returned with many beetles in my jar. Mother turned the oven on low and put the jar inside to bake the beetles. A few moments later she removed the jar and waited for it to cool while she placed a newspaper on the kitchen table. We twisted off the jar lid and shook out the bugs. Together we counted the dead beetles. That was when I first learned about tithing to the LORD. Mother had her pennies ready and when we counted to ten she said, “Nine pennies for you and one for JESUS.” We counted another ten bugs. I caught the idea and gladly gave to JESUS what was His rightful portion. He wasn’t asking for much, and I could have all the rest.
Not only had I earned some pennies, I learned what the prophet Malachi taught concerning the LORD’S tithe, in chapter three verses eight, nine, and ten. If I wanted GOD to bless me, I must obey His word concerning the tithes and offerings that belonged to Him.
Mother, with her simple idea, had achieved three purposes: the bean plants had been rid of beetles without using pesticides, I learned how to tithe, and I had earned some money in exchange for work. She really was very wise. (Proverbs 22:6)