Honey Tree

November 15th, 2016

My father grew up in Elmhurst, Illinois during the Great Depression of the 1930s. His own father, my grandfather, lost almost all his money, and there was hardly any work for him to earn more. The family was poor. They mostly ate beans, bread and oatmeal, with vegetables from the garden during the summer and meat when my dad’s older brother was able to catch small animals hunting in the 50-acre woods behind the family’s house.

One day when Dad and his two brothers were playing out in their back yard, they noticed something wrong with a box elder tree on the other side of the street behind the house. It looked like a storm had broken the tree so it was half gone.

When they checked on the tree they found they couldn’t get near it. A cloud of angry bees was zipping around a large hole about ten feet up. “We didn’t realize it then,” Dad says, “but this tree was a ‘windfall’ in more ways than one.” They ran to find their father and tell him what they had found.

Grandpa told them this was a honey tree. He showed them how to smoke out the bees to get their honey store. They each got a broad brimmed hat and an old lace curtain to tie over their heads. Gloves, long pants tucked into heavy socks, and a jacket protected the rest of their bodies. Then they chopped a hole at the base of the hollow tree and set a smoky fire there to drive out the bees.

When the bees left, they cut down the tree and scooped 40 or 50 pounds of wild honey into buckets. They saved some of the comb (it tastes so good on fresh baked bread), but mashed up most of it and heated it in their mom’s double laundry boiler. Then they poured the honey into Mason jars.

My grandfather saw this as a gift from God for his struggling family in those depression years. There was far more honey than his family could possibly use, so he sent his three sons door to door in their home town, selling that honey.

Money was too scarce to provide allowances for kids in those days, but sale of the honey provided badly needed cash for the family plus a little commission for each of the boys.

After that, Dad said, Grandpa used part of the money they made as a fund to develop a small family business. He made regular trips after that into the country to buy more honey, which the three boys then sold in town.

Food for thought: Dad says, “My father recognized an opportunity when it came knocking, and he used it to help the whole family. In that way, he also was showing us children what to do with opportunities: recognize them, work hard to develop them, and then build on them.”

Worth repeating: The Bible says, “Dishonest money dwindles away, but he who gathers money little by little makes it grow” (Prov. 13:11 NIV).

Today’s prayer: “Lord, help me recognize and use the opportunities you are giving me right now, today.” Amen.

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