“Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all the day long.” (Psalm 25:5)
Stories drive our imaginations, embolden our faith, rescue us from the mundane, recharge our minds, and take us places we didn’t even realize we needed to go.
In a far greater sense, we find that stories from our own families, passed down around campfire or kitchen table, accomplish far more. Here’s how we endured that disaster that almost wiped out our entire business. That’s where we saw God show up when it felt like all else abandoned us. This is where we grabbed hold of a tiny bit of hope, planted a dream, and worked hard until it thrived and flourished and soared.
Long before I realized it, I heard accounts from our relatives that formed me, marked me for good, made me realize that I was part of something wonderful and ordinary all at the same time. There was a mango tree account that their voices buried within me and awakened my faith in the God I hardly yet knew. I heard about an old woman who breathed out blessings on my mother, and I caught the long-lasting effects of generosity on generations to come.
My Aunt Odette told of the mango tree where a thief, hidden among the dense leaves, had the perfect vantage point to observe my grandfather by the cabinet as he locked away a week’s worth of income from the family business. Upon their return from a picnic at the beach, they discovered that all the money was stolen. How to recover from such a crippling loss? The police showed up in futility, the family searched in vain. Nothing.
My aunt recounted that when she realized what was wrong she began praying, begging the Lord for help, reminding him that unless they recovered the money their business would be ruined. Searching for clues all around the garden, she felt a nudge to look beneath the house. She dropped down on all fours, her pregnant belly brushing against the ground, and crawled beneath the wooden foundation. Before long, she spotted mangoes piled to one side and unearthed the money buried beside them. When apprehended, the thief had mangoes stuffed inside his pockets. My family recovered everything that was stolen; I received a lesson in asking, in seeking, in knocking, understanding that Jesus stood ready to help.
My parents had little formal education, but stellar degrees in the value of relentless hard work and compassionate generosity. They built a thriving business in the middle of Kingston, Jamaica, with a reputation for helping the underserved all across the island. One of my earliest memories is helping my mom package and then distribute brown paper bags jammed with flour, sugar, powdered milk, beans, rice and other non-perishable foods. Word would circulate that if you stood in line on a designated day at Elite Haberdashery, you would be handed a parcel of food to take home.
I can still see my mom’s arms extended, her hands holding out the bags, the sound of the crinkling paper as she placed it into the hands of those reaching out to receive the gift. I see their faces, her smile, the way she made sure everyone in line got something good.
In years to come, my mother often repeated the day a woman came to their store without adequate funds to purchase necessary supplies. The elderly woman stood before my mom and carefully explained her dilemma. Instinctively, my mother nodded in agreement and allowed her to take the goods at no cost. A smile spread over the woman’s wrinkled face, and she declared in a voice loud enough for all to hear, “May your bread basket never be empty and your storehouse never run dry.”
Stories of my parents’ generosity even now cause me to reap benefits galore. My aunt’s child-like faith planted in me the lasting belief that the Lord was Someone to be trusted.
Stories retold to strengthen the heart and replenish the soul in these days that hold their own share of challenges. Vital truths from the past to be remembered and retold that simply ease the way going forward.
Elizabeth A Mitchell
Photo Credit: Monika Grabkow on Unsplash