June 24, 2020

My spouse, Rod, spent much of his early career as an educator at the Milton Hershey School, in Hershey, PA. Milton Hershey School was founded by Milton and Catherine Hershey founded the school in 1909. They were childless, and created a trust into which much of the money made by Hershey Foods, and assorted other Hershey create a boarding school for orphaned boys to obtain the education, home life, and skills they needed to succeed after high school.  The school changed over time. At first only for orphaned white boys in a three-county area, later expanding the reach to all of Pennsylvania, and later to all of the United States. They expanded admissions to social orphans – children with one parent missing (a parent incarcerated, for example). In the 1960’s they expanded admissions to boys of color, and in the 1970’s added girls.  

During the Great Depression, one of the only places in Pennsylvania where unemployment didn’t exist, because Mr. Hershey poured money into improving the town of Hershey, including a theater, expansion of the amusement park, and the Hershey Park Arena. 

The school community was proud to say that Mr. Hershey built those things. It was a statement that was true in a financial sense, but was altered forever in my mind when I heard someone new to the administration of the school tell the story of his father.

His father was an Italian immigrant in the early part of the 20th century. He and many others made their way to Hershey where they heard jobs were to be had. His father was a stone mason, and anytime he heard someone state that Mr. Hershey built all those building he would correct them and say, with a heavy accent, “No, I builda dat witha my own hands.” That put things in an entirely different perspective.

A close up of an old building

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Hershey Park Arena @ 1936

It is easy to see buildings in Hershey, and credit Milton Hershey; or travel to Ashville, NC to see the Biltmore, and credit George Washington Biltmore. In fact, people pay big bucks to have things named for themselves or for their businesses. And in the process, skilled laborers like stone masons and carpenters, and unskilled laborers who performed dirty, difficult work in hard conditions, pass into oblivion, unnamed. 

Honestly, if we follow the credit all the way back, we end up with God, from whom all good things come. The apostle Paul, not known for his great humility, nevertheless was wise enough to write in 1 Cor, 3:6, “I planted the seed, Apollos watered, but God has been making it grow.” Planters and waterers built the foundations upon which we stand today. They were what we call essential workers. God has been making it grow, thanks to their participation in God’s project.

Be faithful in planting and watering, and even more faithful in remembering the one who makes all things grow. ~ Pastor Anne

PS – I will be on vacation next week, so my next post after June 26 will be on July 6

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