Day 5: A Helping Hand

During the Great Depression, my grandfather was one of 3 million young men who worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), an innovative program that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt suggested as part of his New Deal. The CCC planted trees, worked on soil erosion and flood control, and provided a stable income and meaningful work for men struggling to survive at a time when unemployment soared to 25%.

My grandpa, born and raised in rural eastern Tennessee, always spoke fondly of the CCC. He described being homesick for his beloved widowed mother, and spoke with pride that most of his CCC earnings ($25 out of the $30 he earned each month) were sent home to help provide sorely-needed income for her and her large family. He talked of friendships with other southern boys and working on conservation projects and the three square meals.

General Mark Clark praised the program: “In my way of thinking, the CCC was a monumental success in saving the youth of the 1930s . . . . endowing the individual CCC enrollee with a feeling of dignity, for he was giving his country an honorable and worthwhile return for what it was doing for him and for his family economically.”

By any measure, the CCC was a success. It’s an example of a government meeting multiple needs and utilizing it’s human resources in productive ways. It recalls another time that an innovative leader mobilized resources to meet the needs of a nation in crisis — Joseph’s preparation for Egypt’s famine in Genesis 41.

Joseph was not afraid to pull the levers of power and design an official solution to the needs of the people. He instructed that grain should be stored in massive quantities. And his foresight saved lives not only in Egypt, but in surrounding nations as well.

In later chapters we learn that this famine and Joseph’s wisdom also brought about the reunion of Joseph and his brothers and father.

Joseph’s storage of the grain was a government-sponsored effort. It wasn’t exactly a secular solution, since Egypt was not secular; I suppose the effort was, like everything else, a public work that bore the stamp of Pharaoh’s approval.

Perhaps one of today’s politicians would have shied away from a massive feeding program that brought glory to Pharaoh and whatever idols he worshiped. But thank goodness it was Joseph, and not these modern practitioners in false sanctimony, that was in charge of such an effort.

God’s help can come from many directions — from the church, or from the government, or from a pagan king like Pharaoh. It was true in ancient Egypt and it was true during the Great Depression. My grandfather is a testament to that.

Prayer: That God would help us be innovative and resourceful in using any means necessary to help the poor and needy.

Read: Genesis 41

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