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In this story from August 1965, the star of stage and screen reveals the importance of the Holy Book to her life and her career.
I was asleep in my home in Beverly Hills, California, the other night when the telephone rang. It was my mother, in Wisconsin.
“Who,” she inquired, “was Moses’ mother?”
For the moment I’d forgotten the name “Jochebed” but believe me I never will again. Mother often checks up on me by phone this way, just to make sure I’m not neglecting my Bible.
She needn’t worry. I may forget a Biblical name occasionally but I’ll never forget that I need this Book every day of my life. For me, as for my parents before me, the Bible is as current as today’s newspaper.
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When I was small I loved the story of the Israelites in the desert. My father was a Scottish Presbyterian minister and from the pulpit he would make very real the cloud by day, the fire by night, and the manna that God sent from heaven.
This was more than ancient history to Father; it was a description of God’s caring here and now. He firmly believed that God has a sign in His sky for us this very day, and guidance for us tonight, and manna for every need of our lives.
How I tested these passages during my own desert days in New York City! I’d gone there with the goal of every young actor: to make my way in the theater. To make my money last, I ate almost nothing: hot water for breakfast, a roll for lunch, rice for dinner.
It was hungry work, making the rounds of casting agents, mile after mile on the unyielding sidewalk, and I used to wonder fervently just how God was going to provide manna in this man-made wilderness.
At last came the day when I was literally down to my last dime. I stood in front of an automat gazing hungrily at the plates of food behind their little glass doors.
The trouble was that one of the agents had given me clear instructions, “Phone, don’t come in,” which meant that five of my 10 cents would have to go into a telephone box instead of opening one of those little doors.
With dragging feet I went into the drugstore next door and changed my worldly wealth into two nickels. I shut myself in the phone booth at the rear of the store, inserted one of the precious nickels—and then waited in growing alarm for the operator’s voice.
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Half my fortune was in that phone, and nothing happened—the coin was not even returned to me! I jiggled the hook. I pounded the box, but it held tight to the coin that would have bought me a big white roll—and a pat of butter on the plate beside it.
As always when I let myself think about food, a kind of desperation seized me. I thrust two fingers into the coin return, clawing the cold metal sides of the tube. They closed on a piece of paper.
Though I didn’t know it then, I had stumbled onto a familiar racket of those days. Pay phones were built in such a way that a piece of paper inserted from the bottom would trap the money in the chute.
All I knew was that as I drew out the paper, a little river of money streamed into my lap: dimes and quarters as well as nickels. In all, when I had finished my incredulous count, I had $4.25.
I knew, of course, that the money belonged to the phone company—and I paid it back with interest as soon as I could. But I never doubted, also, that this money was manna direct from heaven. The oatmeal and rice it bought lasted until I got my first part.
Does God drop manna through phone boxes? Of course. Anyone who spends much time with the Bible recognizes humor as one of the surest signs of His presence. And the Bible-reader also comes to accept this loving involvement with the details of our lives as a fact about Almighty God.