During the Depression Era it was common for hoboes to travel across the country by riding the rails and stowing away on railcars. They would wander from town to town, careful not to overstay their welcome and attract the unwanted attention of law enforcement types. When passing through strange towns they would both look for hobo symbols and leave them for other transients to find. The signs consisted of crude drawings that signified such things as where one could work for a meal, a house where the man had a gun, and whether police in the town were friendly or hostile to hoboes. They could be found written in chalk or charcoal on the sides of buildings, on utility poles, or on fenceposts.
One of the hobo symbols consisted of a simply drawn smiling cat figure. This sign would often be found on a fencepost or on the side of a house. It indicated that a kind hearted woman lived in the home. It was a signal to road-weary travelers that they could approach the house to receive decent treatment in the form of a meal, a piece of clothing, or a few coins. They could be sure that a compassionate and charitable woman would be there to offer a bit of kindness in a cold, harsh world.
We are all known by different titles. Some of these are earned upon obtaining a college degree or completing training (i.e. doctor, lawyer, or firefighter). Many of them are bestowed once certain life milestones have been reached (such as husband, mother, widower, etc.). Others are given to us as a result of our actions and the way in which others perceive us.
When I think about what I would like my title to be, the answer comes right away. I want to be known as a kind hearted woman. I would love for people to describe me as having a benevolent, generous spirit. It is how I hope to live the days I am graced with. I work on it daily, and I would like to think that more often than not I succeed. With continued effort and a million kind acts on my horizon I do believe I will some day be remembered this way. It is the legacy I would like to create.
I am blessed to have kind hearted women in my life. (There are plenty of kind hearted men, too. I have no intention of excluding them.) I work hard to emulate their behavior. I learn from their gentle, genuine souls. My mom is the first through-and-through kind hearted woman to guide me in how to treat others. In fact, when I learned of the hobo symbol and its story I bought her a sterling silver pin with this smiling cat engraved on it. I have a sweet friend who has taught me that true kindness extends to those times when there are no witnesses to your words and actions. There is a circle of friends who show their grace and giving nature through the simple deeds they complete daily. To me, the hobo symbol for the kind hearted woman is synonymous with these wonderful women. I know that had they lived during the Depression Era their fenceposts would have doubtless been decorated with this cheerful and inviting sign. I am certain that their imaginary fenceposts today bear the symbol. I hope that mine does, too.