I love stories. I’ve recently rediscovered my love for politics. I love to read. Right now, I’m reading a book that combines all my loves. The Presidents Club, by Nancy Gibbs and Michael Duffy, details the elusive relationship between the presidents. In the first 50 pages of the book, I’ve found a beautiful story I can’t seem to forget.
Herbert Hoover’s reputation was terrible as he left the office of the presidency. He was blamed for the Great Depression; in fact the homeless villages got dubbed “Hoovervilles” for his inability to help the poor in America during the greatest economic downturn our country has seen. No one wanted to be associated with Hoover; his own political party asked that he not help with campaigning because they were afraid that it would hurt a candidate’s chances of being elected. According the authors of the book, Congress even talked about impeaching Hoover. He was hated.
Anyways, Howard Truman took over the presidency in 1945 during the end of World War II, and Hoover sent Truman a note indicating that if there was anything he could do for Truman, he would. We can’t be for sure what exactly happened, but Truman invited Hoover to the White House for his advice on how to handle the situation in Europe – hundreds of thousands of people were starving, farm lands were war-ravaged and a majority of the continent’s livelihoods had been destroyed, and Truman wanted Hoover’s help. What Truman did was more than ask for help; he was giving Hoover a second chance. Under Hoover’s watch, Americans lost jobs, filed for foreclosure on homes and struggled to feed their families. Upon Truman’s invitation, Hoover started to cry. To simplify the rest, Hoover accepted the chance to help out America, and humanity everywhere. He spent the next 18 months at the age of 71 (in the 1940’s this would have been very old), traveling the world trying to ensure that people were fed. He worked closely with Congress, the State Department and President Truman to generate new food sources, have other countries donate food and adjust agricultural policies in the U.S. to send to Europe. Hoover, along with Truman and other state leaders, believed that keeping people fed was crucial to defending Europe from communism.
The man whose reputation was that of being heartless and allowing Americans to struggle spent 18 months traveling around the world advocating against hunger. Why? Because he was given a second chance. Truman gave Hoover a second chance. I can’t get this out of my head. This story defines grace. The radical grace that changes life. Herbert Hoover’s life was no longer defined by the Great Depression, but also by saving lives of those in Europe from dying of starvation. His reputation was restored, and a life-changing friendship emerged above partisan politics. I want to be like Howard Truman. Not because I’m super concerned with reputations, Jesus’ own reputation was not so great with his enemies, but because I want to extend grace. I want to give second chances that change lives. My life has been changed by grace; in Christ, I have been given an, infinite numbers of second chances. May I be a radical grace extender.