“The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field. It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches” (Matthew 13:31-32).
Mama always loved growing things and had the greenest thumb I’ve ever known. After she passed from this world, I dug up and brought home one tiny clump of wild violets from her yard. I could have brought roses or peonies, but I chose wild violets even though many would call them weeds. Mama often valued those things that others did not. When I looked over my yard that spring, it was obvious that it did not take a green thumb to grow them. They were everywhere! The side yard and the back yard were covered. I especially loved the ones that had found a safe haven tucked between the roots of the trees.
That multitude of violets reminded me of Mama. She was not famous. You won’t find a biography listing all of her accomplishments, but God had given her a heart of genuine love. She wanted the best for everyone, but she was the one who saw and took time to encourage the hurting, the broken, the needy. She didn’t always have the means to make grand gestures, but she was always ready to help and encourage with whatever she could.
During the decade after the end of World War II, there were many transients, discouraged men and women, people who felt hopeless. Some called them hobos and had no patience with them. Mama would always manage to find some small way to help – usually a hot meal of fried potatoes and scrambled eggs and a word of encouragement.
Mama didn’t have extra money to spend or give, but she was very sensitive to those who were trying to make enough money to take care of their family. Mama would, if at all possible, buy whatever it was. One time, she wrote a check with a pencil because that was all she could find. The seeds from the peaches she bought from one family grew into beautiful trees abundantly producing more fruit. I think God gave a special blessing on those trees.
When others turned their backs and talked about the disgrace of the young girl who had chosen the wrong road, Mama saw someone that needed a kind word and a hug. She needed to know that she was worthy of love, Mama’s love and God’s love.
Back in the day when boys and girls came to Vacation Bible School in their “good school clothes,” some might have sent home the little boy who arrived for the first day in his dirty clothes with his upper lip covered in green mucus. Mama cleaned his face, put some extra Kleenex in his pocket, and welcomed him to class with a big hug.
I don’t know what happened to all of those to whom Mama showed small acts of genuine love, but I know some of them pretty well. Her acts of sacrificial love toward me, my brother, and my father made a home where a life of love was exemplified as the standard. I hope the wanderers were encouraged by Mama’s ready help. I pray they found a good life and passed on Mama’s kindness to others.
As for the young lady who got the hug at the grocery store, she went on to train as a hair dresser and eventually became a good wife, mother, and member of the church and community. Mama was one of her first clients. And, the little boy with the runny nose is now the pastor of the same church where he showed up for Vacation Bible School that year, and the church is growing and going strong because the church has become a place for the hurting and the needy under his sensitive leadership.
I have always wanted to be like Mama. God has given me more than my three score and ten, but I am still “a far piece” from being like her. But I am not discouraged. As I look at this field of wild violets and how they have come from such a small clump, I am reminded of so many of Mama’s loving acts of kindness and genuine love toward others. Who knows, the small things may just take over the world someday.
By Rebecca Emery