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by Abigail Van Buren

Poem Echoes Mom's Legacy of Selfless Devotion to Others

DEAR ABBY: My mother, Eleanor, passed away last Aug. 30. She spent her long life helping others. During her eulogy, I described her by saying, "Her best lesson, the one she modeled for us, is that a selfless life devoted to family and others, is the highest example of God's work here on Earth."

After the funeral, my brother mentioned that the one thing Mom had wanted read during her service was an item she had saved from a column of yours that was published in 1999. It eloquently captures the essence of bigotry and lack of compassion in our society.

Although we have made significant inroads on eradicating prejudice, I found it still timely. Would you please print it again? -- ELLIE'S DAUGHTER IN SEATTLE

DEAR DAUGHTER: I am honored that your mother found something she saw in my column to be so meaningful. Please accept my sympathy for her passing. I agree that the poem, which is attributed to James Patrick Kinney, is worth sharing again.


Six humans trapped in happenstance

In dark and bitter cold,

Each one possessed a stick of wood,

Or so the story's told.

Their dying fire in need of logs

The first woman held hers back,

For of the faces around the fire,

She noticed one was black.

The next man looking across the way

Saw not one of his church,

And couldn't bring himself to give

The fire his stick of birch.

The third one sat in tattered clothes

He gave his coat a hitch,

Why should his log be put to use,

To warm the idle rich?

The rich man just sat back and thought

Of the wealth he had in store,

And how to keep what he had earned,

From the lazy, shiftless poor.

The black man's face bespoke revenge

As the fire passed from sight,

For all he saw in his stick of wood

Was a chance to spite the white.

The last man of this forlorn group

Did naught except for gain,

Giving only to those who gave,

Was how he played the game.

The logs held tight in death's still hands

Was proof of human sin,

They didn't die from the cold without,

They died from the cold within.

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)