It happened many years ago in an American city, in Philadelphia.

It was a bitter cold winter day, that a gentleman walked quickly along the streets of the city. He apparently made haste so that he would not be exposed to the cold, cutting wind no longer than was necessary. We believe that somewhere a cozy, heated room awaited him. But why did he suddenly stop and not seem to mind the cold any more? … A boy approached him, and with a trembling voice and tears in his eyes he asked the gentleman for a gift. The lad did not look sick; he was neatly dressed and it seemed he was well taken care of. He must have been about twelve years of age. It could be noticed that he did not belong to the common beggar children, of whom there were so many in the large cities during those days. No, apparently there was a special cause for this begging: a child, or possibly a family from the middle class was in great need. In a few moments these thoughts passed through the mind of this gentleman as he viewed the lad more accurately, but silently. Then he spoke kindly, and said: ‘But my good boy, how did it happen that you have had to begin begging? You certainly have not done this before, and why are you so very sad? Come, tell me all about it’.

‘Oh, Sir,’ is the answer, ‘my mother is so sick, so very sick. If no doctor comes to see her, she will surely die. And we have no money to pay a doctor, at least …. not now any more. Some time ago we did. My father used to earn much money. He was a salesman, Sir, he was so nice, and so good for us ….’ At this point the boy broke out into sobs.

‘Did your father die?’ asked the gentleman gently.

‘Yes, Sir. One of father’s servants deceived him and made him totally poor. Then father was very much grieved and sorrowful because mother, my little brother, and I could not live any more as formerly. From sadness my father became very sick and after some time he died. That is what the doctor said’.

Softly the lad went on speaking, and it seems that they both do not feel the cold any more.

‘After a while mother, my brother and I moved to an attic room. Mother went out to do sewing at the homes of rich ladies, but she did not get very much work because most of the ladies already had a seamstress. And last week mother got sick, and she is in bed and cannot sew at all now. Oh, Sir, I am so afraid that she will die, just as my father!’

Interrupted by his sobs from time to time, the poor boy finished his sad account. The gentleman, filled with compassion, looked down upon the little fellow. This was the truth, he could see this clearly. For a few moments he stood quietly thinking. Then he took out his purse and gave the boy a coin. ‘Go quickly now to a doctor. Here is some money’, said he. ‘But first tell me where you live’.

‘The last house on this street, Sir; turn left at the corner’.

After he had thanked the generous donor, the boy ran away with many tears of gladness in his eyes, and the gentleman forgot his warm room and was soon ascending the old unpainted attic stairway in the house to which he had been directed. Groping about in the dark hallway upstairs, he found a door. When he had gently knocked at the door, a soft voice said: ‘Come in’. The visitor now opened the door and found himself in a small, simple room. The room was neatly furnished and very clean. At one side of the room stood a bed, upon which a young woman laid. The sick patient looked unusually pale. Apparently through sickness and cares she was very thin and completely exhausted. A little boy of about six or seven years sat on a chair beside her bed. With both of his little hands he held the thin hand of his mother, while he wept softly. Struck by this scene, the strange gentleman approached the patient and asked her about her condition. Thinking he was a doctor, she answered all of his questions fully. Finally she said: ‘Oh, doctor, if I must die it is through grace that I do not fear death, but I am so troubled about my poor children. What shall become of them …. they are yet so young …. it is for my dear boys’ sake that I would like to be well again if it is God’s will’.

‘My good woman’, said the gentleman whom she fancied to be a doctor, ‘you can surely with God’s help be cured of this sickness. I will write a prescription for you, and I surely believe that the remedy which I shall prescribe for you will help to give you back your lost strength in not too many days. At the same time, may you trust in the great Physician, Who is a helper at all times. If it is necessary, then I will write another prescription for you later’.

The gentleman wrote something upon a sheet of paper which he had taken out of his portfolio. Then he laid the paper on the table, spoke a few more kind words to the sick mother, gently stroked the curls of the little boy with his hand, and left the home.

Only a few moments after he had left, her oldest boy came home with a doctor. The sick woman was now very confused. ‘Are you a doctor, sir?’ she asked in amazement.

The doctor also looked at her with surprise.

‘But a doctor has just been here a few moments ago, and he has already written a prescription. It is on the table’.

The doctor walked to the table and picked up the ‘prescription’. He had hardly glanced at it when he began to smile.

‘Yes, my dear woman,’ he said, ‘you have received a very good prescription from a very good doctor. I think that my services shall not be needed here very long. Just listen a moment. On this paper is written as follows: ‘I grant to the possessor of this statement a fixed pension till her death’. And underneath it is signed, ‘George Washington’.

It was quiet in the sickroom. Then the doctor resumed and said: ‘Such prescriptions I cannot write. And with God’s help, the one I will write should not be needed very long. I will prescribe something for you that is stimulating and strengthening, and I hope that you will soon recover’.

Then the doctor parted from the trio and cluttered down the dark stairway again. And the sick mother? Before she knew it she sat straight up in bed, so that her boys began to jump about the bed for they believed that mother was getting better again. She did this out of sheer gladness, however. She could now buy good food to strengthen her weak boys, and this could be done promptly, for her son showed her the money which the kind gentleman had given him. The gentleman, she understood clearly now, was the same one who had visited her. Consequently, it was George Washington, the President of the American Republic, the ‘greatest’ man of that land; and that great man had sat at her beside in all simplicity and talked with her. For a while she pondered about the great things the Lord had done; it was all so wonderful. It seemed too miraculous. She felt that the Lord had taken a heavy burden from her soul. He had remembered her in mercy and not forgotten her great need. He had inclined the heart of her boy to do that which he had done, although she blushed over it in shame. However, she saw and believed that the Lord directs all things, this instance also. Together she and her children thanked God for this wonderful deliverance.

When the young mother was completely recovered from her illness, she requested to be admitted to the President. This wish was granted, and for a considerable time he spoke with her. The good impressions he had of this woman was thereby strengthened, so that he decided to give his regular attention to this family. In later years he also paid the tuition for the schooling of the boys, and the mother was wonderfully relieved of any financial cares.


From: Van Zweden, J. The Wonderful Providence of Almighty God Seen in the Lives of Young and Old: Series No 10. Stickney, South Dakota: Netherlands Reformed Congregations in America, 1978. pages 51-54