“When eating fruit or honey, remember the one who planted the tree and flower.” ~ Author unknown
I cannot look upon my life without remembering the many who went before me, sacrificing, that I might be the person I am—complete with flaws and all—and to have had the countless opportunities that their sacrifices afforded me.
The first to come to my mind is my mother, Sandra Kay. Money in our household was scarce when I was a child. Both my parents, being hardworking, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps-sort-of-people, no matter how many times you fall, taught me the true value of money and things.
The teaching always came gently through everyday living experiences, never in a preachy sort of way. One particular story comes to mind.
Mr. Stanley was our neighbor who was a WWII veteran and had married a German woman; he brought her to the U.S. with him when he returned. They were farmers and worked their land and green houses to supply local groceries with their fare. They both worked very hard.
My brothers often worked after school and during the summers for Mr. Stanley. When I was about 12, I began cleaning house for his wife, Ms. Edith.
Ms. Edith was vigilant with her household and ran everything as though the Queen of England may pop over for an unannounced visit at any moment. I showed up early each Saturday morning and she supplied me with items such as Pine-Sol and toothbrushes for the baseboards and a larger brush to scrub the floors on my hands and knees.
It was honest work, and I always felt a sort of high as I walked home at the end of the day. Edith was always vocal with her praise when I’d done a good job, and I had $20 to do with as I pleased.
One Friday evening I overheard my parents in the next room talking about money. I do not remember the details of their conversation. What I do remember is the feeling I had as I heard the concern in their voices as to how they were going to come up with whatever sum was lacking.
I, too, felt concerned at that moment. My concern was not about the money and responsibilities that I did not understand. My concern was for the weight that my parents carried trying to provide for eight children whose hunger rose afresh in them again with each sunrise and whose feet grew faster than weeds always needing new shoes.
So, the following day, as I walked home from Ms. Edith’s, with the $20 singing in my pocket, I had a grand idea. Just the thought of it filled me with joy, and I couldn’t wait to get home.
I asked my mom to sit with me on the back stoop. I told her that I’d heard her and dad talking the night before and pulled the $20 from my pocket. I told her that I wanted to do my part to help out, and I tried to give her the $20.
My mom looked at me with a ton of love and appreciation, but she did not take the $20 I had extended in my open hand. Instead, she said, “Honey, I appreciate your offer more than you can know but I am not going to take your money. You have worked hard for it, and it belongs to you.”
I am not sure how, but somehow my parents apparently made it through that financial straight. The details were never shared with their children.
What I do know is that it was a huge lesson in faith in finances and material things. Although my parents were not yet professing Christians, they were already living honorably and following the principles.
Now in her 80s, still living in the house where that back stoop conversation taught me so much, my mother still does not lock her doors and gives away far more than she receives materially.
When we, as her children, voice concerns for her safety around breaks in and robbery, her only answer is, “If somebody breaks in here and robs me blind, they must need it more than I do.”
Thanks, Mom, for a life well modeled for your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren. It was only a few years later when you found Jesus, and I and never thank you enough for your ongoing example of a valiant life well lived. Dad, we miss you and remember you with gratitude as well.
Love, your daughter and sister along the journey,
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