2020 Grateful 12: Katharine Hepburn

I’m not loving much about life lately, but the prods the universe send me never cease to amaze me.

My good mate Des Nix gave us a sneak preview of a story he’s going to include in his Parish newsletter. It’s a story by Katharine Hepburn and goes like this:

Once when I was a teenager, my father and I were standing in line to buy tickets for the circus.

Finally, there was only one other family between us and the ticket counter. This family made a big impression on me.

There were eight children, all probably under the age of 12. The way they  were dressed, you could tell they didn’t have a lot of money, but their  clothes were neat and clean.

The children were  well-behaved, all of them standing in line, two-by-two behind their  parents, holding hands. They were excitedly jabbering about the clowns,  animals, and all the acts they would be seeing that night. By their  excitement you could sense they had never been to the circus before. It  would be a highlight of their lives.

The father and mother were at the head of the pack standing proud as could be. The mother was holding her husband’s hand, looking up at him as if to say,  “You’re my knight in shining armor.” He was smiling and enjoying seeing  his family happy.

The ticket lady asked the man how many tickets he wanted? He proudly responded, “I’d like to buy  eight children’s tickets and two adult tickets, so I can take my family  to the circus.” The ticket lady stated the price.

The man’s wife let go of his hand, her head dropped, the man’s lip began to quiver. Then he leaned a little closer and asked, “How much did you  say?” The ticket lady again stated the price.

The man didn’t have enough money. How was he supposed to turn and tell his  eight kids that he didn’t have enough money to take them to the circus?

Seeing what was going on, my dad reached into his pocket, pulled out a $20  bill, and then dropped it on the ground. (We were not wealthy in any  sense of the word!) My father bent down, picked up the $20 bill, tapped  the man on the shoulder and said, “Excuse me, sir, this fell out of your pocket.”

The man understood what was going on. He wasn’t begging for a handout but certainly appreciated the help in a desperate, heartbreaking and embarrassing situation.

He looked straight into my dad’s eyes, took my dad’s hand in both of his,  squeezed tightly onto the $20 bill, and with his lip quivering and a  tear streaming down his cheek, he replied; “Thank you, thank you, sir.  This really means a lot to me and my family.”

My father and I went back to our car and drove home. The $20 that my dad  gave away is what we were going to buy our own tickets with.

Although we didn’t get to see the circus that night, we both felt a joy inside  us that was far greater than seeing the circus could ever provide.

Ah, lovely, I thought, hoping that I’d have done the same.

Given that the sceptic in me is feeding off the fear of being caught out reposting fake news, I decided to check if Katharine really did tell this story, if it really happened. I never got that far, because I came across this.

It’s delightful. Her matter-of-fact approach to life is refreshing. There’s something about Hepburn’s voice that resonates and reaches into the very depths of my soul. When I think of her, I think of Ethel Thayer in On Golden Pond. That’s how I see her, how I remember her. My mood has lifted and the weariness that has been dogging me for weeks is beginning to fall away.

Thank you, Des. I’m grateful you found what you found and that it sent me to find what I found, too.

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