12 November 2008

Norman Vincent Peale

The Christmas Tree was jsut delivered to Fountain Square, and the skating rink is being put together this week. This reminded me of a post I've been meaning to make about Norman Vincent Peale, Cincinnati Christmas Memories. He was born in a small town, near Xenia, but lived in Cincinnati during some of his formative years.

I have searched in vain for an article that I read maybe 20 years ago in a dentist office waiting room. It was a Home and Garden Magazine and the article was of his Christmas memories. I cannot find the story, but my recollection is this:
Norman and his childhood friends in Over-the-Rhine, would call out and tease a dirty man, whose job was to oil the streetcar. They would call him "greasy Joe" or some such name. Then on Christmas Eve, he went with his father to visit sick people in the hospital, and there in one of the beds was greasy Joe. It was then that he realized that this was a poor but proud man, with a family that depended on him.

Instead of that memory, I did find this one. Does anyone know in which house on Liberty St he lived?:

Some of my most impressionable years were spent in Cincinnati. I still remember the huge Christmas tree in Fountain Square--the gleaming decorations, the streets ringing with the sound of carols. Up on East Liberty Street where we lived, my mother always had a Christmas tree with real candles on it, magical candles which, combined with the fir tree, gave off a forest aroma, unique and unforgettable.
One Christmas Eve when I was 12, I was out with my minister father doing some late Christmas shopping. He had me loaded down with packages and I was tired and cross. I was thinking how good it would be to get home when a beggar--a bleary-eyed, unshaven, dirty old man--came up to me, touched my arm with a hand like a claw, and asked for money. He was so repulsive that instinctively I recoiled.
Softly my father said, “Norman, it's Christmas Eve. You shouldn't treat a man that way.”
I was unrepentant. “Dad,” I said, “he's nothing but a bum.”
My father stopped. “Maybe he hasn't made much of himself, but he's still a child of God.” He then handed me a dollar--a lot of money for those days and for a preacher's income. “I want you to take this and give it to that man,” he said. “Speak to him respectfully. Tell him you are giving it to him in Christ's name.”
“Oh, Dad!” I protested. “I can't do anything like that.”
My father's voice was firm. “Go and do as I tell you.”
So, reluctant and resisting, I ran after the old man and said, “Excuse me, sir. I give you this money in the name of Christ.”
He stared at the dollar bill, then looked at me in utter amazement. A wonderful smile came to his face, a smile so full of life and beauty that I forgot that he was dirty and unshaven. I forgot that he was ragged and old. With a gesture that was almost courtly, he took off his hat. Graciously he said, “And I thank you, young sir, in the name of Christ.”
All my irritation, all my annoyance faded away. The street, the houses, everything around me suddenly seemed beautiful because I had been part of a miracle that I have seen many times since--the transformation that comes over people when you think of them as children of God, when you offer them love in the name of a Baby born two thousand years ago in a stable in Bethlehem, a Person who still lives and walks with us and makes His presence known.
That was my Christmas discovery that year--the gold of human dignity that lies hidden in every living soul, waiting to shine through if only we'll give it a chance.


Radarman said...

The planning and traffic engineering departments of the best governed city in America got together and removed the south side of Liberty Street as the first step in a crosstown expressway that never happened (just one more example of cars over people) so the Peale house may have been peeled away.

CityKin said...

Update: Found in the 1904 and 1905 Cincinnati City Directories that Rev Chas C Peale pastor Asbury M E Church lived at 257 Gilman Avenue, Mt Auburn. The lot is now vacant, but would have been near the church on Auburn Drive. He is not listed in the earlier or later directories.

Also, N V Peale says that in 1910 when watching Haley's Comet, he was 12 and living on Spencer Ave in Norwood