The House by the Side of the Road

by | Jun 4, 1999 | God's Hands, Helping, Poem

Admirers of Sam Walter Foss’s poem, “The House by the Side of the Road,” are many. The story of his writing it is known to few. He was an enthusiastic traveler, and on one of his trips through England he came, at the top of a long hill, to a little unpainted house almost in the road, so near it was. Near one side was a queerly constructed signpost finger pointing to a well-worn path and a sign, “Come in and have a cool drink.” Following the path, he found in the side of the bank, some distance from the house, a spring of ice-cold water into which a barrel had been sunk and above which hung an old-fashioned gourd dipper; and on a bench nearby-a wonder-was a basket of fragrant apples with another sign, “Help yourself.”

Scenting a story, he went back to the house, where he found a childless old couple in straitened circumstances, with the rocky farm as their only source of livelihood. But it was rich in the delicious spring water and an abundance of fruit; so the sign was placed guiding to the water, and from the time of ripening of the first purple plum to the harvesting of the last apple a basket of whatever fruit might be in season was placed near, so that everyone passing might rest upon the long hill and refresh himself.

The old gentleman explained that they were too poor to give money, so took this way to add their mite to the world’s well-doing.
The beautiful thought and its helpfulness so impressed Foss that he immortalized with his pen the spirit of the ideal home:
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by-

They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish-so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat
Or hurl the cynic’s ban?-

Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.

Selected, Signs of the Times, January 1960. Thanks to Dale E. Galusha Pacific Press Ministries


The House by the Side of the Road