Ethel Franklin’s neighbor
By: Dick Hodgetts; Columnist
The holiday is nearly upon us, and to all my friends who are two season Christians: Easter and Christmas, it is time to get into shape for the spring visit to Church. This year we may not budget a trip to the Mall and, may have to actually look inward to improve our image. Some of the dilemmas of the past are still there. Perhaps you recall the challenge to: “Love thy neighbor ….”
Amazing how we rationalize that. Does it mean the family next door? Could it mean the person from the other side of town? In the 2,000 years of our Christian history, we have found many ways to interpret that challenge. To those of us who profess the faith, it has become easy to favor folks who are a lot like us, but toward those with the barking dogs, bad kids, or who don’t keep their yards up; it’s a whole different attitude. Lest anyone think I am speaking down to my readers, rest easy. I am as much at fault as anyone-maybe more so. I was once asked: “who died and made you God?” and I was hard put to answer my Mom that day.
Ethel Franklin is an inspiration to many who know her. She was born with difficult physical challenges to put it mildly. She has not had full mobility at any point in her life. For years, she moved about on crutches. Later, her medical providers made the decision to restrict her to a wheel chair. Every working day, every weekend she and her chair are together. Her indomitable spirit has persevered, and she masters a trade, and operates her own business. She is an accomplished seamstress of note to many Madison families. Folks who have lived here for years know that she had a business on the north side of town near the Golden Pantry. She operated across from Godfrey’s on Jefferson St. Later, she moved her shop onto the Square near the old funeral home. Madisonians saw her moving about town in her battery powered scooter. Many a business suit and lots of bridal gowns have been altered by Ethel Franklin. Dealing with her is a session in being humbled by someone who has done a lot despite tremendous challenges. My accomplishments and my problems seem insignificant when I come face to face with Ethel Franklin and watch her navigate through life, sewing and altering clothes, handling transportation and operating a business. And, always, with a smile and something cheerful to pass along.
As time passed, moving about had become more of a challenge, her scooter continually ran out of power; and her shoulders had been painfully hurt from past years on crutches. I am sure other issues are present, and it hurts to write about just these. How is it that folks like Ethel Franklin make us look inside ourselves and ask if we could have maintained a positive outlook if given these circumstances to overcome? She has humbled me repeatedly. I wish I had her strength of character. She attributes these qualities to her Mom: Dellie Franklin, who set strict expectations for all her kids; and they all responded.
In all these difficulties, most any of us could easily see, she needed a helping hand. One came in the form of an offer to move her business nearer to Beacon Heights-a few blocks from her home. She was given the opportunity to tie her business into a Dry Cleaners; and she does not have to occupy herself dealing with every single customer; and she can focus on her alteration jobs. Morgan Transit moves her to the front door of her business, with its handicap capability. Does this solve her problems? No, but it was a nice thing for a neighbor to do. I would love to tell you that this neighborly person belongs to my Church, and we are recognizing him this Easter season. Fact is, he is a Hindu named Ben Patel. The same eager young man who owns Pro-Care Cleaners. We all know that Christians do not have a monopoly on good deeds, but this one got away from the more pious amongst us.
It is interesting who defines whom as their neighbor. If you want to do something that will make this Easter season a bit more joyous, there are lots of neighbors here in Madison. I am looking around myself, and I continue to be humbled by those who do so much with so many challenges. Ethel Franklin is my neighbor, and another Easter season will not pass until I too figure out a way to lend her a hand. And, just maybe, I will deserve the gift of Easter.
Published in the April 2, 2009 Edition