Posts Tagged ‘Poverty’

I know you’ve heard the following statement a jillion times. “People are the product of their environment.” Some folks wear that statement like a badge of honor, but that’s not necessarily true.

We all know people who came from wonderful homes and someway, somehow, they took a one-eighty and ended up destroying their lives. And then there are individuals from terrible circumstances who determine to endure and learn to live joy filled, successful lives.

In either situation, everything depends upon your heart, your choices, your character, and your God.

The year was 1921 on a snowy Christmas Sunday morning in Sebrell, Virginia, Christine Bell Davis arrived in this world. She was sixth in a line of thirteen children—seven survived.

If success depended on environment, my Mama would have been a failure before she began. Her mother was married five times and their home was a movie epic titled Dysfunction. Yet a determined will to prevail filled my mother’s young heart from the beginning.

In her later years Mama wrote a book for her children and grandchildren, a legacy to show how different life was in pre-World War II years and beyond.

The first two husbands provided for the family and life, while not affluent, was certainly average or above. But as the list of husbands grew life changed. Especially as their income slipped below the poverty line. And one of Mama’s old quotes certainly applies here: “When money problems come in the front door, love goes out the back.”

At age nine, Mama, her parents, and five children (at that time) walked from Augusta, Georgia, to Jacksonville, Florida, on the promise of a job for the current step-father. That was the summer of 1931. And, if you remember, the stock market had crashed in October of 1929. The depression was in full swing and the country was in chaos. People had lost their homes, their savings, and their jobs. There was no money for bus fare. No car to drive and even if they had a car, no money for gas. No. Money.

They ate when food was offered by kind farmers, slept on bare floors in empty houses along the way—no electricity or running water. But even then the hand of God was on my Mama. This rag-tag group made it safely to Jacksonville. Finally. Mama has no idea how long the journey took other than a long, very long time.

Old deserted St. Vincent’s Hospital in Jacksonville was used to give shelter to the needy. And they were needy. The family set up housekeeping and Mama was allowed to enroll in school again. But after so many moves and never finishing a grade, she was placed in the second grade. However, Mama was a good student; and, in spite of several more moves, she skipped portions of the third, fourth, and fifth grades and by early 1934 she was back with her proper age group in sixth grade.

The following year, without explanation, her mother sent her to a small town outside Jacksonville to live with an unknown family on a farm. She didn’t remember their names and never knew why she had been sent away.

When she returned home the following year the family was falling apart. Another husband was in the home and several children had run away. My mother’s mom took a job in a small community near Jacksonville and took their younger brother with her. But she left Mama and her eleven year sister in the care of their seventeen-year-old sister. Three girls alone, with no money. Not wanting to care for them, the elder sister put the younger girl on a bus and sent her to their mother. Then without telling my Mama, the older sister left.

Mama was thirteen, by herself and frightened. She found a distant cousin, with five children of her own, who made arrangements for Mama to attend a camp for underprivileged children for two weeks. But this lonely thirteen-year-old had to walk three miles to catch the bus for camp.

When she returned her mother placed she and the eleven year old sister in the Parental Home for Girls and their brother in the Boys Home. Mama admitted being angry, but also said it was the best thing that ever happened to her. Again, God was in charge of Mama’s life. Keeping her safe. Providing situations and people to nurture endurance and strength of character in her and teach her life skills.

The next few years were secure, happy years, and Mama excelled.
But the year Mama was to be a senior in high school her mother took her out of the Parental Home and was told she must work to help provide income for the family. There were no social services to intervene. You obeyed your parents.

A couple of years after that Mama met my Daddy and the rest is history. They married, had two children, three grandchildren, and lived together fifty-five years ‘til Mama’s death.

This godly woman taught her children the principles of God’s Word by the way she lived and treated others. Mama loved to sing and cook. Her favorite sayings: “Actions are caught—not taught.” And, “If you don’t want to get in trouble—don’t be where trouble can happen. . .” have stuck in my head through the years and I’ve passed them on to my children and grandchildren.

We weren’t a wealthy family by the world’s standards but she and Daddy provided a secure home for my brother and me. They cared for us and loved us and their grandchildren.

In the final months of her life Alzheimer’s had robbed Mama of almost everything. She was in the hospital when I called to check on her one evening. The nurse said Mama was groaning about something and they couldn’t find out what was bothering her.

I asked the young woman if she was familiar with church hymns. She said “yes,” so I asked her to go, lean down close to Mama and let me know what she was saying. It must have been four or five minutes before the nurse returned. I could tell she was weeping, when she gasped, “I can’t believe it. Your Mama isn’t groaning. She’s singing Amazing Grace.”

Mama knew God’s Word and held onto His Truths. She knew first hand: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11 NAS).

Could you have weathered a childhood of destitution? Dysfunction? Despair? How about your children? If all their toys and cushy way of life was suddenly snatched away who or what would they cling to?

Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 NAS).

And He promises, “In my Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:2-3 NAS).

Through all the trials and heartaches Mama’s heart was fixed on Jesus. And she served her Lord by helping others. She refused to allow her environment to define who she was. She chose to trust God in the terrible circumstances and endure the trials He allowed in her life. And today her heart is at peace with her Lord. Her King. Forever. Just like Jesus promised.

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