As I have grown older I am more grateful for my parents. They are more wise and far more sacrificial than I ever realized as a youngster. Perspective will do that for you. So will raising your own children.
God graciously blessed me with two very special parents, Cotton and Linda Johnson. They shaped my life in very deep ways that I treasure to this day. A while back I wrote about several lessons I had learned from my father. I want to highlight some of the different ways my mother impacted me in the next several posts.
I saw generosity in the way Mom lived. I think one place she learned this was from her mother, Mildred Lewis. We (Melanie, Hoss, and myself) called her “Nan”, short for Nana. Nan was generous just like Mom.
When I was in college I came home on the weekends to work in a church. Every week had the same rhythm. We left Chattanooga on Friday afternoon and got to Huntsville in the early evening. All day Saturday was given to ministry at the church and Sunday was obviously busy, too, with teaching and other responsibilities.
At the time my grandmother was battling cancer. Paula and I were married and we stayed at her house on the weekends we came home. On Sunday nights we would get home from church around 8 p.m. and my grandmother would always have a snack for us and we would usually stay until 10 p.m. talking.
Reluctantly we dragged ourselves to the door to say goodbye and my Nan would hug me tight and grab my hands and give me a $20 bill. I know my brother and sister would say the same thing of her. She was truly one of the most giving people I have ever known in my life. Mom was raised by this unselfish and generous woman and it rubbed off on her in many ways.
Mom cared for people that were having a tough time. Before I was born Mom and Dad took in my cousin, a young girl at that time, to help her. When my grandfather (on my father’s side) died, my grandmother came to live with us for a while (Mom’s mother-in-law).
Years later, after I left for college, they took in another one of my cousins that was having trouble at home in order to help him. During that same time she and Dad took in a young man that was very troubled to help him. Later on, he broke in the house and stole money and some things from them.
Though the grocery and utility bills went up I never heard them complain about what it cost them. The ages included a child, teenagers, and an adult. All of this happened in our first home which was about 600 square feet and our second home which was 900 square feet. So there wasn’t a lot of room, but she and Dad did so and have never regretted it.
Mom wasn’t stingy with money. As I look back I realize that we were on the lowest rung of the middle class, and maybe not always that high. She sacrificed so that Melanie, Hoss and myself could have nicer clothes than herself. She helped me with my college tuition when the money was very tight.
Mom was generous in giving of her time. I went to Terry Heights elementary school and she served as a volunteer and teacher’s aide. I know that she did it to be close to me while Melanie and I were at school. She wasn’t paid for that time though she worked hard and gave a lot of hours.
Years later she began to work in the office at Butler High School and she volunteered to work with the cheerleaders and sponsor them. It was a sacrifice of time for her. There was no stipend involved. But she loved it and even today those ladies love her very much.
I lived in the Washington D.C. area from 1981-85 serving at a church and Mom paid to send me the hometown newspaper so I could keep up with the athletic career of my brother. With the internet now it’s hard to imagine how sparse information was thirty years ago when you are over 700 miles away from home.
While we lived in Virginia Mom would send small gifts to Paula, myself, and Jeremiah. Many of them were not bought from the store, but things that she had made herself. Even the way she wrapped them and packaged them for mailing was done in a second-mile way. She put a lot of thought and time into it.
Dad went to Heaven in July, 2008 and Mom lives on a limited income. Recently my brother sold his house and moved in with her until he gets another home. One day Mom was telling me about how Hoss was helping her and that he was paying the utility bill for her.
She excitedly told me, “Now, I have more money to invite the ladies at our church out to lunch”. She wants to be the one to pay the bill. Even today in our church at almost 75 years old Mom is attentive to special needs people have. She has radar for guests that attend for the first time and takes the time to get to know them and make them feel welcome.
Generosity is not related to wealth, but to your heart and attitude. I know wealthy people that are generous and poor people that are misers. Generosity doesn’t say, “If I had a lot of money I would do more”. Rather it does what it can with what it has. Someone wrote, “You can give without loving, but you cannot love without giving”.
I thank the Lord for my mother and the way she has lived her life. She is a giver and it has impacted me. May my children see the same quality in my life.