When it comes to upholding resolutions, an incident from my early childhood left an impression. It involved sweet potatoes, a dear uncle, and his iron-willed grandfather.
Uncle Lindsay, whom I admired no end, was reared in the household of his grandfather, Christopher Grace, on a farm in Wayne County, Georgia.
Grandfather Grace was straight down the line. Rules were rules, and were there to be obeyed.
They grew sweet potatoes on the Grace farm. Uncle Lindsay loved to eat sweet potatoes, then a staple of the Georgia table, especially during the winter months. However, sweet potatoes had to be dug from under ground. It was hard dirty work and Uncle Lindsay came to hate it… He complained in his grandfather’s presence more than once.
On a winter afternoon, sometime before World War I, Uncle Lindsay, then about twelve, was digging potatoes and complaining all the while, when Captain Grace came on the scene. Said he, “If you’re going to eat sweet potatoes at my table, you’re going to help dig them.” Uncle Lindsay rose from his knees and replied, “Then I will not eat another sweet potato.” “Very well,” said Captain Grace, “you will not be required to dig them.”
Uncle Lindsay did not consume another sweet potato until after the death of his Grandfather, twenty years later.
My elders told this story on numerous occasions. As I grew up and became a man, I came to appreciate the underlying principle more and more. They were describing an episode of integrity, though no one ever labeled it as such.