Let’s avoid the P-word today.
Just for some clarity, we’ll offer its dictionary definition: “The state or condition of having little or no money, goods, or means of support; condition of being poor.” Need another hint? The U.S. Census Bureau uses specific numbers to determine which people are experiencing that condition. A family of four with an annual household income of $22,000 or less qualifies for that status. In Terre Haute, 12,094 children live in homes with “little or no money, goods, or means of support,” according to the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey for 2008 through 2010. In Indiana, only Gary and Elkhart have higher percentages of kids under 18 immersed in that situation.
But repetition of stats, percentages, phrases like “highest in the state,” and the P-word gradually numb the senses. In fact, after that second paragraph, I’m grateful for all who’ve hung with us up to this sentence.
Images tell stories better than numerals and economic terminology. The flesh-and-blood realities exist inside the stats and jargon, and I’ve encountered a few real-life reminders during the past week … during conversations with folks staying at the Light House Mission … while listening to Danny Tanoos, the Vigo County schools superintendent, explain how free lunches are often the last full meal of the day for many youngsters … through a chat with the Rev. Honnalora Hubbard, chairperson of the Salvation Army’s 2011 Christmas Campaign.
Not surprisingly, Hubbard emphasized the need for a heartfelt response by the community this year. The numbers — yes, statistics — back up her call. Last year, the Salvation Army served 1,650 families through various holiday programs, such as delivery of food baskets, toy and clothing shopping trips for kids and teens, and “adopt-a-family” provisions of gifts and day-to-day necessities.
This year, the Salvation Army expects 1,800 families to sign up for help.
Each family, each person has a story. Hubbard understands. She has one, too.
Today, Hubbard is a 41-year-old wife and mom who works as executive director of Terre Haute Ministries, an association of local congregations. She smiles as she talks about her family — her husband of 21 years, Billy, and their son, Anthony, now serving in the U.S. military in Afghanistan.
The circumstances of Hubbard’s childhood are a stark contrast to her life today. Nine people shared a small, three-bedroom house west of the Wabash. Things got tougher after her dad died when Honnalora was just 7. “I grew up in a troubled, poor, abusive home,” she explained in an impressively composed voice. When friends asked why young Honnalora was skipping meals, she’d tell them, “I’m on a diet.” Hers was a “very dysfunctional family.”
Yet, out of that “horrible childhood,” she said, “The Lord has done amazing healing in my life.”
Thus, Hubbard leans on some good memories from her seven brief years with her dad, especially from her last Christmas with him.
He worked at the A&P Supermarket in Terre Haute. Each year, her dad asked the store to donate some of its bulk candy on Christmas Eve, and he would deliver it to neighbors, door-to-door, dressed as Santa Claus. Meanwhile, he’d also spend several days making batches of chocolate fudge from his mother’s recipe, and take that treat to friends along his Christmas Eve route as Santa.
The last time Hubbard’s father played Santa, he made a stop at his own family’s home. She was 6. “I saw his eyes, and I realized it was my dad,” she recalled.
Later, she asked him why he would pretend to be Santa. “Because I want to help people,” he answered, adding, “If I could, I would do more.” He died the following year.
This fall, when local Salvation Army officials approached Hubbard about serving as the Christmas Campaign chairperson, “That story came flooding back and I realized this was my chance to do ‘the more.’” Her wish is to see an extraordinary effort by a community coping with stubbornly high unemployment and wage rates well below the state average. The reaction by Hauteans in times of past hardships has been miraculous, she said. The upcoming holiday season could inspire another miracle through making a good, lasting memory for those who’ve lost jobs, homes, loved ones or hope.
The Christmas spirit. It goes beyond money. It’s giving with care, and without judgment. It occurs every year around this time.
“There’s all this amazing stuff that happens in this community at Christmastime, where needs are met, generosity happens, families are strengthened,” Hubbard said, “and nobody realizes it unless somebody points it out.”
That’s “the more” her dad mentioned. That’s the chance for healing. That’s a glimmer of light in the midst of, yes, poverty.
Mark Bennett can be reached at (812) 231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Let’s avoid the P-word today.
- Mark Bennett B-Sides
John bypassed by Hall of Fame again
Baseball Hall of Fame electors have bypassed Tommy John again. The Terre Haute-born pitcher, who won 288 games in 26 big-league seasons, didn’t receive enough votes from the Veterans Committee as it cast ballots on Sunday in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., at the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings.
Tim Meadows: SNL cast member knew he was prime time
If you watched the first broadcast of “Saturday Night Live” on Oct. 11, 1975, raise your hand.
That gives you something in common with Tim Meadows.
MARK BENNETT: Walk of Fame inductee would stand tall in any era
Unlike most of us, Amory Kinney didn’t let the wall around his comfort zone grow taller as time passed.
MARK BENNETT: Words, and what they mean, is what we remember
I remember scanning the granite wall at the grave of President John F. Kennedy in Arlington National Cemetery, looking for those words.
MARK BENNETT: Tommy John getting another shot at Baseball Hall of Fame
Go ahead, circle Dec. 9 on your calendar.
Filling our void: Terre Haute artist Bill Wolfe poured his heart and soul into the project of a lifetime
Bill Wolfe thumbed through a series of photographs documenting his sculpture of basketball legend Larry Bird.
MARK BENNETT: Keeping Terre Haute a vibrant city ‘worth doing’
The past, present and future had just converged at the Crossroads of America.
The moment was made possible by the gutsy spirit of 1920s Terre Haute. Without it, the city would look starkly different.
MARK BENNETT: Tommy John’s Field of Dreams
A kid pedals a bicycle, a ball glove looped over the handlebar, headed to a sandlot game.
It didn’t get much better than that for a 10-year-old in summertime.
MARK BENNETT: Indiana’s Donnelly part of ‘The Middle’ that got deal done
Hanging out in the middle isn’t cool.
Its occupants don’t attract a captivated circle of listeners at parties, their comments don’t inspire hell-yeahs on Facebook, and they don’t pretend to always be right.
MARK BENNETT: ISU professor’s book on Churchill to be TV period drama
Somewhere, Winston Churchill is lighting a celebratory cigar in Michael Shelden’s honor.
MARK BENNETT: Restoration improves courthouse top’s standing in skyline
Terre Haute has a skyline.
From some angles, it consists of billboards, restaurant marquees and convenience-store signs. From other spots, the outlines of historic buildings, church steeples, college dorms and old industries jut into the horizon.
MARK BENNETT: Inspiring project connects Blues Festival, B&G Club members with music
Think a decade into the future. You’re relaxing amid a sea of fellow lawn-chair sitters at Seventh and Wabash, watching the 23rd annual Blues at the Crossroads Festival. Suddenly, the guy on stage starts playing your old Fender guitar. He sounds like the next B.B. King. Then, the guitarist dedicates a song to the person who donated that worn Telecaster to the youth music program in which he learned to play it.
MARK BENNETT: Even Marty McFly wouldn’t want to go back to those paydays
Reliving the 1980s may sound tempting.
Ah, simpler times. Then again … hair styles as big as mushroom clouds, “Miami Vice” jackets, the trickle-down theory, New Coke, Yugos.
OK, “Back to the Future”-style nostalgia obviously has its limits.
MARK BENNETT: Hoops film focuses on life of ‘Slick’ Leonard
Many Americans connect basketball with Indiana.
MARK BENNETT: Rose-Hulman bridge design would let people walk, run, ride across Wabash River
Four months, 500 miles and 18 towns.
In the course of compiling the “500 Miles of Wabash” series, which concludes this Sunday, Tribune-Star photographer Jim Avelis and I heard valuable insights from dozens of people who live, work and recreate along Indiana’s state river. One comment seems particularly relevant to Terre Haute, especially as the ongoing 2013 Year of the River celebration stirs ideas. The quotation affirms the potential of a stellar proposal this community ought to consider.
MARK BENNETT: When did athleticism surpass skill in sports?
Baseball has gotten too athletic.
MARK BENNETT: Steve Martin keeps Terre Haute on burner
If insults are a form of flattery, Steve Martin still likes us.
Better yet, he hasn’t forgotten us.
MARK BENNETT: At 71, Paul McCartney still rocking it eight days a week
I’ll admit, I worried about Paul McCartney during the blistering intro to “Helter Skelter.”
MARK BENNETT: Forget the cellphone, enjoy the summer
The third rail post from the left on the second-floor patio. By holding a cellphone at eye level, with your left hand, while standing perfectly still, without blinking, a faint one-bar signal was possible. Possible. Otherwise, there was no connection to the outside world at this retreat spot in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, where my wife and I stayed earlier this month
MARK BENNETT: Time for surf, sand and a good book
I can read a book on the beach. Until I start sweating. Then it feels like exercise, minus the fitness perks. My brain shifts into neutral as the waves roll in, blissfully washing away footprints in the sand and my inclination to think. Better put, I enjoy starting a book on the beach, and finishing it later, elsewhere.
Police: Mom, son conspire to kill witness
The Clay County Sheriff’s Department seems to have prevented what it believes was a mother-and-son conspiracy to commit murder.
Banks of the Wabash Festival is more than just yearly entertainment
Pioneers think counterintuitively. Where others see widespread apathy, they focus on the possibility for progress. In a way, the 2013 Year of the River celebration began in the 1970s.
MARK BENNETT: After running for 28 hours straight, what’s another 5 miles?
Some phrases can only be uttered by a few people, or none at all.
MARK BENNETT: Glitches show limitations of high-stakes testing concept
The dog ate my homework. That age-old excuse — based on a shockingly unforeseen complication — rarely works for a kid who didn’t finish yesterday’s math assignment. Yet, in a role reversal, Indiana school children, along with their teachers and administrators, are left to accept an explanation for a disruption best described as the mother of all ironies.
MARK BENNETT: One step at a time to save lives
Remember that name.
MARK BENNETT: Sometimes, the mere posing of questions is significant
The era seems quaint now, almost like a fable. When people left their house doors unlocked. When the sight of a police officer in a school meant it was Career Day.
MARK BENNETT: New reality steers Nashville singer to Crossroads for Historical Society concert
People pass through the Crossroads of America for lots of reasons.
Business trips. College campus events. Federal prison sentences. Visits with relatives. Gas pitstops.
Or maybe a career change and a twist of fate.
Ty Brown makes his first stop in downtown Terre Haute as the headliner of a multi-band Sweet Sensations Country Jam concert May 4 in the Ohio Building — a fundraiser for the Vigo County Historical Society.
MARK BENNETT: Terre Haute barber ‘sharpens up’ customers for 50 years
People streamed through this section of downtown Terre Haute in those days.
“You could hardly walk by here,” John Hochhalter said, pointing toward the sidewalk outside the window.
The bustle has faded since the early 1960s. Hochhalter remains. He’s still barbering in the same shop he and late business partner Kenny Thomas opened a half-century ago this week.
MARK BENNETT: Memories, emotions rush back with announcement of new pope
I saw a pope once.Read quickly, that sentence sounds too casual, almost as if we’d crossed paths at Home Depot. Say it slowly, though, and the significance comes through.
MARK BENNETT: Reflections of grid success stir with Brent Anderson’s passing
A few hundred miles away, and nearly 40 years gone by, a special game ball still occupies a fond place in Rudy Bohinc’s memories.
- More Mark Bennett B-Sides Headlines
- John bypassed by Hall of Fame again