“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 from our own families, passed down around campfire or kitchen table, rescue us from the mundane, recharge our minds, and take us places we didn’t even realize we needed to go. 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 was abandoned. This is where we grabbed hold of a tiny bit of hope, planted a dream, and worked hard until it thrived, flourished, soared.
Long before I realized their impact, I heard such accounts from my Lebanese family that marked me for good. Their stories told me I was part of something wonderful and ordinary at the same time. Their voices buried truth within me and awakened my faith in the God I hardly yet knew.
Aunt Odette told us often of the thief in the mango tree, hidden among the dense leaves, who had the perfect vantage point to observe my grandfather as he locked away a week’s worth of cash from their family business. When the family returned from a picnic, they discovered that all the money had vanished. How would they recover from such a crippling loss? The police’s efforts were futile, the family searched in vain. Nothing.
My aunt began praying, begging the Lord for help, reminding him that unless they recovered this money there would be tragic repercussions. Searching for clues through the house and then around the garden, she felt a prompting to look beneath the house. She dropped down on all fours, her pregnant form brushing against the ground, and crawled beneath the wooden foundation. Before long she spotted an unusual pile of mangoes plopped in the dirt and yelled for her brother to come and help. Within minutes they unearthed the buried cash. My family recovered every penny that was stolen and celebrated the miracle they had all witnessed. With each retelling of this part of our family story, I received a lesson in asking, seeking, and knocking, most especially when nothing makes much sense at all.
My parents had little formal education, but stellar degrees in the value of relentless hard work. 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 fill brown paper bags 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 at 91 Princess Street, you would be handed a parcel of food to take home.
I can still see my mom’s arms extended and hear the sound of the crinkling paper as she placed the bags into the hands of those reaching out to receive the gift. I see their faces and her kind smile as she made sure everyone in line got something good.
In years to come, my mother loved to retell the story of the day an old woman came to their retail company without adequate funds to purchase necessary supplies. The elderly woman stood before my mom, her eyes lowered, and carefully explained her dilemma. Instinctively, my mother nodded in agreement and allowed her to take the goods at no cost. Light 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.” That blessing was multiplied throughout my mother’s life on earth.
Stories of my parents’ generosity and my aunt’s child-like faith planted in me the lasting belief that the Lord was someone I could trust. The past remembered and retold simply eases the way for each of us going forward.
Elizabeth A Mitchell
Photo Credit: Rachel Claire