My mother was a teacher, by educational preparation, but more importantly by God’s Calling.
She came to a small South Carolina town for her first teaching job. It was there she met my father.
Her dedication to her profession was evident to him from the beginning. He said the only way she would go out with him was if he helped her grade papers after they got back from their date!
She quietly did her job, never knowing what a great impact she had on the lives of others. At the time of her promotion to Heaven, many came forward and expressed how she had taught them much more than their school lessons. She had taught them life lessons.
I met an elderly man at the nursing home where my father lived after my mother’s death. When he discovered who my mother was, his eyes lit up.
“Oh Carolyn,” he said. “Your Mama was pure gold. I was so hard to learn, I wanted to quit. But Miss Pearl was not having it. She told me I could learn and she made me believe it. By the time she got through with me, I thought I could do anything!”
He paused and reflected on his life. “Every time I got to some place in life where I wanted to give up, I’d think of Miss Pearl telling me I could do it, and I’d give it another try. And it worked. I’ve had a good life.
“Everyone needs someone to believe in them. Do you know what I mean?”
I did! Mother never let me give up. I so looked forward to first grade. I got a new dress, new shoes and a book bag. I was so excited the night before the big day I could hardly sleep.
But early that morning, the school principal called and said I could not come because my birthday was not quite soon enough to qualify. I missed the cutoff by a matter of days.
I was devastated. In retrospect, I realize my mother was disappointed too. But she refused to be defeated or to allow me to be defeated.
She had quit teaching in order to be a “stay at home” wife and mother. However, that day she returned to the classroom. As I sat sobbing at the kitchen table, she only took a moment to think.
Then she said with great resolution, “Get out your pencil and paper. I will be your teacher. We’ll have school right here.” And we did!
For that year, we had class, lunch and recess every weekday. It was true homeschooling, before it was in vogue. When I started formal school the following year, I was so far ahead of all my classmates, the school considered letting me skip a grade.
But my mother vetoed it. I think she realized I needed to have the benefits of maturing in socialization. She told me that I needed to help my classmates. And I did. When someone was “slow to learn,” I told them not to give up. I knew they could do it.
My mother used her gift of teaching for years as a Sunday School Teacher. She studied, researched and prayed in preparation for every lesson she taught.
When she was old and having difficulty seeing, she told the class she was going to have to give it up. The class members begged her not to stop teaching. Those precious ladies read the lesson to her and then let her teach. They said her wisdom was a continuing gift to all of them.
Mother taught family, friends and strangers, not only through her words, but also through her life.
When she was near the end of her life she was in the hospital. The nurses told me that even in the midst of her own pain and suffering, she would express interest in them. They sat at her bedside and she continued to teach to the very end.
My Mother’s life is summed up well in Paul’s words to the Philippians. When I read his words, I can hear her saying it.
Rejoice in The Lord always.
I will say it again; Rejoice!
Let your gentleness be evident to all.
The Lord is near.
Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation,
by prayer and petition,
present your requests to God.
And The Peace of God,
which transcends all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds
in Christ Jesus.
Finally, brothers and sisters,
whatever is true,
whatever is noble,
whatever is right,
whatever is pure,
whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable —
if anything is excellent or praiseworthy —
think about such things.
Whatever you have learned or received from me,
or seen in me —
put into practice.
And The God of Peace will be with you!