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Woodworking column: The ability to warm hearts

Gosh people have the ability to warm one's heart!

When my spouse and I first moved to River Falls 20 years ago, our hearts warmed up to Mel Germundsen and Jerry Carter who stood out on Main Street and convinced people to dump groceries or cash in their pickup to help feed the needy. My spouse didn't quite understand and dragged me back to the supermarket, where she bought a passel of fancy food to dump in the truck. Cashews. Smoked oysters, that sort of thing.

I reluctantly gave up my billfold, but explained to her that perhaps the needy had slightly different needs than John D. Rockefeller's descendents. Like rice, oatmeal, pasta, milk, that sort of thing.

Y'know what she said?

"The less fortunate need opulent Christmases, too."

And do you know what? That warmed this old Scrooge's heart, as well.

Thank goodness, River Falls folks have a myriad of opportunities to enjoy the good well of its neighbors. My sister-in-law from Chicago and niece from L.A. came for Thanksgiving last year and went out to search for a breakfast spot and found only the Kinni Cafe open.

My niece said, "I can't believe this! They offered us a free /Thanksgiving dinner? What goes? We explained that it's fairly common for local eateries to open their doors on special occasions to offer everyone in town a free meal. The women nodded their heads in wonderment.

Ah, yes, there are many generosities in our town to be thankful for.

But we should also remember there are fellow humans out there who send a chill down our collective spine for their downright meanness.

I refer to a news item in the Star Tribune two months ago that detailed some folks unbelievable cruelty to the victims of poverty. I refer to the story about a hot lunch cook who encountered a gradeschooler with a tray full of food. The cook grabbed the tray and dumped it, none of it eaten, into a garbage can while the kid looked on. Turns out the poor kid's parents hadn't paid their hot lunch bill and this was the cook's way of punishing them and their little boy. What did he do to deserve such embarrassing treatment? And come to think of it, what did his parents do? Had they lost their jobs or were they just deadbeats?

Back in the 60s there was a novel by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. "God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater." It's

hero was Eliot, the scion of a wealthy Hoosiers, whose conscience, Vonnegut wrote was "covered with primordial scales." So how did his son Eliot atone for the sins of his father? He created the Rosewater Foundation, a charitable organization that gave money and things to people in need, but only if the recipients didn't deserve them. Was Eliot crazy? Lots of people thought so. But Eliot was always reminded of the best thing about religion.

After my spine warmed up after the garbage can incident, I continued reading the article. Turns out that right down the road, in a town called Stewartville, if parents fail to pay their children's hot lunch bill, the child has a sign pinned on him to let everyone in his classroom know that his parents haven't paid up.

Our niece, who was so impressed with the Kinni Cafe's generosity, later told me that at Dodgers

games in L.A. fans pay $15 for paper cup of beers "unless you order a premium brand. Then it's


Come on you hot lunch moguls, loosen up your purse strings. Don't make the kids pay for the sins or misfortunes of their fathers.