Blessed Are the Poor

I did not grow up poor. We were an upper middle class family. My dad, our primary bread-winner, was an engineer in the chemical industry and we never went without anything.

Once when I asked my dad, “Daddy, are we rich?” he told me “Yes, because we are rich in LOVE.” And that was that. We were indeed rich, rich in love, and pretty much rich in material things, too.

The Talent Show

Fast forward to 1973. I am sitting in the dark multi-purpose room of my junior high school, watching the spring talent show.

On stage is a girl with a guitar. I don’t remember her name but I knew her to be one of my classmates and the daughter of our school janitor. She sang a beautiful song she had written herself, set in a minor key, and with a simple message: don’t judge based on appearances.

I remember as I sat there, I could feel her own personal pain being poured out into the words and music of the song. She must have had a tough road, attending the school at which her dad was employed. We weren’t overtly cruel to her, at least I don’t remember being cruel, but we must have been distant and judgmental. I could hear that in her song.

Even now, 40 years later, I remember every word of that song. I remember her pain, and how she turned it into beauty which she lavished on all of us that day in the darkened auditorium. Here is what I remember:

Hey Hey Simpson 

  1. When I was just eleven, there was a fat boy on our block.
    His name was Leonard Simpson, and we laughed at him a lot.

    Singin’ “Hey, hey, Simpson. Fatty, fatty, two by four.
    Hey, hey, Simpson. Saw you hug the ugly girl next door.”

  2. He wore torn and tattered clothes. His old man cut his hair.
    He wore high-topped army boots, and sleeveless underwear.

    Singin’ “Hey, hey, Simpson. Fatty, fatty, two by four.
    Hey, hey, Simpson. Saw you hug the ugly girl next door.”

  3. That was eighteen years ago. Now I’m twenty-nine.
    Simpson died a while ago, a hero of some kind.
    They say a small young colored boy was pestered by a gang.
    Simpson helped him get away and was beat to death by chains.

    Singin’ “Hey, hey, Simpson. Fatty, fatty, two by four.
    Hey, hey, Simpson. Saw you hug the ugly girl next door.”

  4. Funny  how the years go by, success so lit by loss
    Reminds me oh so long ago of a man, some blood, and a cross.

    Singin’ “Hey, hey, Simpson. Fatty, fatty, two by four.
    Hey, hey, Simpson. Saw you hug the ugly girl next door.”

Blessed are the Poor

So thank you to that long-ago singer/songwriter. Your song still echos in my memory.

More than that, thank you for showing me the truth about who was really poor, who was really rich, and who was truly blessed.