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In the small town of Fairview, lawyer and community leader Ken Keeler learns that children from "The Patch," a squalid migrant camp on the outskirts of town, will soon be attending Fairview's school. Meanwhile, the Ashbys, a humble family of migrant workers, are driving through Fairview when their dilapidated old car breaks down in front of the Keeler home. While Pa Ashby fixes the car, his son Nathaniel strikes up a friendship with Ken's younger son Kenny. At a town meeting that evening, the citizens of Fairview speak out vehemently against The Patch, which they view as a threat to the health and morals of their community. Only Ken's daughter Sallie, who is deeply religious and committed to social change, speaks on behalf of The Patch children. The townspeople appoint Ken to find a solution by the next town meeting in two weeks, and later, at a gathering at her home, Sallie denounces the others for their smugness and hypocrisy. On Sunday, the Ashby family, now living in a run-down house in Patchtown owned by a farmer named Reader, put on their best clothes and go to the church in Fairview, but they are too intimidated by the hostile glances of the citizens to enter the building. During the church service, Ken wrestles with his conscience, weighing biblical injuctions to help one's fellow man against his neighbors' opinions. Ken visits The Patch, and after surveying the dire poverty, he encounters Dave Harley, a Christian missionary. Dave tells Ken that the American dream is dying because people are losing touch with the church, and he opens Ken's eyes to the plight of the migrant worker. Back at the Keeler home, Kenny is trying to get his new friend Nathaniel a place on the neighborhood softball team, despite the cruel teasing of the other children, when his older brother Malcolm recognizes Nathaniel as one of The Patch children and sends the boy away. Ken is furious when he learns of this, and he and Sallie call on the Ashby family to apologize. When Sallie expresses her disillusionment with America, Ma Ashby reproaches her, and she touches the Keelers with her religious faith. At Ma's request, Ken and Sallie attend services in Patchtown's makeshift chapel, as newspaper headlines continue to call for action against Patchtown. The night of the town meeting, Chief Marlin takes Reader aside to offer a "suggestion" regarding his tenants, the Ashby family. Ken tells the townspeople he has come to see that they were wrong, and that their selfishness is a bigger threat than Patchtown. Sallie listens proudly as her father speaks of having rediscovered the American dream and his Christian values, and submits a plan of action for helping the residents of Patchtown. Later that night, the Ashby family, having been evicted by Reader, sadly moves on to the next town while Ma recites the Lord's Prayer.