Whitesburg KY

The little dirty boy

My mother always told me that it is no disgrace to get dirty, but it is a disgrace to stay dirty. I believe God covered the earth with threefourths water and one-fourth land in order that we stay clean. So for the most part there is enough water for everyone to clean anything they wish.

At times we do things without giving it a lot of thought, maybe we should or maybe not. The outcome of what I alone did could have been very ugly for me. Talking got no results but action did.

I was 22 years old when I was hired for the first time as an elementary teacher in southeastern Kentucky. It was a two-room school. Grades 1-4 in one room and grades 5-8 in the other room. There were a total of 54 students and two teachers. The fifth grade consisted of two girls and one boy. My story is about this little boy.

Unfortunately his mother had passed away. His father worked second shift at a nearby coal mine and did not see the children very often. He had a sister in the sixth grade and a brother in the seventh grade. His sister kept their clothes clean but neither she nor his brother could get him to wash up or take a bath.

Every day he would come to school and his clothes would be spic and span. However his skin was nasty dirty from head to toes. One layer of dirt on top of another layer.

One Friday in mid-November, I told him if he came to school dirty on the next Monday I would take him to the nearby river and give him a bath.

Monday morning I took a towel, washcloth, and bar of soap to school. As usual the little boy was wearing clean clothes but the layers of dirt were still there. I told the other students to behave and had the boy follow me. I told him it was bath time.

He followed me to a small stream section well known by many as the head of the river. In mid-stream there just happened to be a flat rock we could hop on. He was on his knees and bent over the water enough for me to start at the top and wash his head. You can imagine how cold the water was. I helped him wash his neck and arms. He continued washing down to his belt. I had him roll up his pants and he washed his legs and feet. When he finished drying off he put his shirt back on and we quickly returned to school.

I told him if he ever came to school dirty again that I would give him another bath. From that day on he was the cleanest student in the school. Now let me tell you that I believe this little boy was the biggest little man that I have ever seen. Even to this day if we should ever meet, I would tell him how proud of him I am. To me, I felt like I did the right thing.

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