Erick Hoffer was a self-educated longshoreman who wrote several best-selling books in the 1960’s. Erick Severeid was the “editorial” commentator for CBS, with newsman, Walter Cronkite, during this time. The following story was told by Hoffer during an interview with Severied on CBS, concerning the motivation for the inspiring content of Hoffer’s books:
During the Great Depression, Erick Hoffer’s family lived in a “Hooverville” on the outskirts of town. His wife and 3 children were starving. They hadn’t eaten in 3 days. The soup kitchens were inadequate, feeding barely half of those who stood in line. Hoffer was most concerned about his 3-year old daughter, who was sickly and might die.
Every day Hoffer went out looking for a day job – something that could pay him for food for a few days. On the 4th day, Hoffer got a job picking peas. That job would pay him enough to keep his family from starving, but he had to fill a full sack of peas to get paid. Anything less than a full sack, Hoffer would get nothing. There was no pro-ration.
Although he got a late start, Hoffer was picking peas fast and furiously. At the end of the day, he was one row short of filling his sack of peas. The sun was setting. Time was short. Then, Hoffer found a full row of un-picked peas.
As he began picking at one end, Hoffer noticed a bum, picking peas at the other end and putting them into his hat. Hoffer picked faster. The bum picked faster. Hoffer needed that whole row of peas to get paid. He pictured his 3-year old daughter starving to death. He pictured his massive longshoreman hands around the bum’s throat, choking him to death. No one would see. No one would care. He was just a bum, picking peas for his supper.
As the sun set, the two men met in the middle of the row. Before Hofer could assault the bum, the bum emptied the peas from his hat into Hoffer’s sack, filling it to the brim. The bum said, “Now you owe someone a hat-full-of-peas.” That unselfish act of generosity changed Hoffer’s life, forever – providing motivation to write inspiring best-selling books.
Likewise, we each have received many blessings. We need to seek others who need a hat-full-of-peas. Then, we fulfill Emerson’s verse about Success, “To know that even one life breathed easier, because we have lived”, or, Christ’s command, “To love one another as I (Christ) have loved you.”
Perhaps, each day we can give someone a hat-full-of-peas. Perhaps.