MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, February 1st. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: making a difference.
Hody Childress lived in Geraldine, Alabama, a small town with a population of only 910. Every month, Childress would visit the local pharmacy and anonymously pay people’s bills. Now, that habit is having ripple effects across the globe. Here’s WORLD reporter Amy Lewis with his story.
TANIA: He was a very generous, giving, loving man. He was God-fearing. He read his Bible and prayed every day. I would say he tried to live his life by the Bible…
AMY LEWIS, REPORTER: That’s Tania Nix, Hody Childress’s daughter. For fifty years, Childress farmed hay and soybeans and corn in rural northeastern Alabama. But he suffered from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD. That’s a condition that restricts airflow to the lungs.
But his health didn’t stop him from mowing neighbors’ yards or sharing his garden vegetables. He sent cards to friends and family every week, often with money tucked inside. But then he got really sick.
TANIA: Probably for the last three months of Dad’s life I was pretty much the primary caregiver, me and another lady.
Even though he was bedridden toward the end of his life, he didn’t want to stop doing what he’d been doing for years.
TANIA: I went to the drugstore and the bank and grocery store for my dad. One day I was getting ready to go when he looked at me and said, “I’ve been doing something for a while, and I’d like to continue doing this as long as I’m alive.”
At that point, he could only walk from the wheelchair to the bed.
His daughter asked what it was he wanted to continue doing.
TANIA: That’s when he told me, ‘I’ve been carrying a $100 bill at the first of the month to the drugstore. And I give it to Brooke. And she has the liberty to do what she chooses to help someone with it. And I told her just to say it’s a blessing from the Lord.’
Nix dutifully took the money to Brooke Walker, the drugstore owner. Just weeks later, Childress passed away on January 1st.
It was only at Childress’s funeral that the full story of his kindness and generosity began to unfold.
TANIA: I guess I was just very moved that, that he’d been doing that, so I wanted to share that at the funeral home. And after I shared it, my cousin happened to be there, which was a personal friend of Brooke’s. So she reached out to Brooke… so that sort of opened the door for Brooke to share her story.
Here’s what Brooke Walker told NPR’s All Things Considered.
BROOKE: He just came into the pharmacy one day, and that's when he asked me if anyone ever has trouble paying for their medications. And he handed me a bill, and he said, the next time that happens, will you use this?
He insisted on being anonymous. He told Walker:
BROOKE: ‘I don't want them to know who I am, and I don't want to know who they are, and just tell them that it's a blessing from the Lord.’ So I thought that was a one-time gift.
But he came into the drugstore and gave her a folded $100 bill on the first day of every month—for almost 10 years.
WALKER: And since then, we've had people come and say, oh, my goodness, I was a recipient of that money. And now they know who it was from.
But that’s not what Childress originally wanted.
TANIA: I know he would not want to be recognized for what he done. He had told me that in the Bible it said don’t let your right hand know what your left hand does. So I know it wasn’t for recognition.
He wanted to help those who needed it the most.
TANIA: I felt like Dad wanted to give people hope. He wanted people to know that they were loved and that they were cared about and that he was just trying to help the best that he could, anybody he could.
The ripple effects of his generosity started even before Childress passed away. Brook Walker says one young mom came into the pharmacy and couldn’t afford the medication.
WALKER: …And so we were able to use the fund for that. But what blew me away is a few months later, she came back into the pharmacy, and she paid that money forward. And I know that Hody, he made a difference in her life…
Childress’s son Doug Childress told MSNBC…
DOUG: There’s a lot more to Daddy than this one story. Daddy done a lot for everybody.
His daughter Tania Nix says her dad’s actions didn’t surprise her.
TANIA: I may have been surprised at how long it had been happening. But he was that kind of man. So I was very proud and very humbled. And it made me want to be a better person and me do better.
Walker says others are picking up where Childress left off by sending in donations to the newly established “Hody’s Heart Fund.” When a man living in Georgia heard about the influx of donations, he told Walker he would contact his local pharmacy to set up a Hody Childress fund there.
He’s not alone in taking Hody’s hint. The employees of James Bar-B-Q in Childress’s town of Geraldine are donating their tips for the next month. They will go toward the medical expenses of a local 14-year-old boy recently diagnosed with cancer.
Drugstore owner Brooke Walker wishes she had told Hody Childress how much his actions and faith affected her life and how blessed she was to know him.
Childress’ daughter Tania Nix says her dad’s simple act of generosity has turned into something she never dreamed would happen.
TANIA: …but I feel like that it has inspired so many people to want to help in their communities and to want to give that they can find a little bit can go a long ways. It can help a lot of people.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Amy Lewis.
WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.
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