My grandmother was a strong woman. She had to be, raising three children on her own in the 1940’s after my grandfather left. She would often tell me stories of the hard times that she experienced and how difficult it was to make sure that there was food on the table and clothes on her childrens’ back. She wasn’t afraid of doing the hard work that she needed to make that happen. She worked in a canning plant and a meat packing plant for years until she finally landed a job at the Florida School for Boys where she worked for over 40 years. Until the time she retired, she was the warehouse manager and it was normal for me to go see her after school and find her driving the forklift moving pallets around. She kept meticulous books and records and her warehouse was spotless.
In the early years of her childrens’ life she often said she would not have been able to put food on the table had it not been for the assistance that she received from the Salvation Army. However, she would also say that with that assistance came responsibility. For most of her life, until she no longer could, around the holidays you would always find her out in front of a store with a bell in her hand and a kettle by her side collecting donations. With her job she no longer needed them, but she knew they needed her and she never forgot that.
You see, her strength came not only from her religious beliefs and she was definitely a woman of God, they came from her ingrained belief that no matter how little you had, you always gave back in thanks for that which you were given. I really believe that it was her struggle to survive that gave her the will and the passion for taking care of others later in her life, a gift she so wonderfully passed on to me.
When she passed two years ago, we were going through old photos to make the collage for her service and I came upon many pictures. Not only did they exude the strength and vitality that was so her, they showed a woman prepared to take on life no matter what was thrown at her, and take on life she did. There is no doubt in my mind that up in heaven she is still driving forklifts, keeping spotless warehouses and ringing bells.
Have a great day and remember to be the reason someone smiles.