By Juanita Gambrell Floyd
Many years ago, arriving back to school from summer break, my fifth grade teacher asked this question, “What exciting place(s) did you travel to this summer?”
Every student raised their hands except for me. They told of places like Bourbon Street in New Orleans, the Arch in St. Louis, the beaches in Florida, the White House in D.C. and many other places. As I sat there with tears in my eyes, I silently vowed that when I finished college and obtained a job, I would somehow take children to different parts of the United States during the summer months.
Helen Keller said, “Face your deficiencies and acknowledge them; but do not let them master you. Let them teach you patience, sweetness, insight. When we do the best we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.”
I didn’t realize I was actually setting a goal and preparing for mission work at a young age. After completing college, I landed my first full-time job with CREATE. For over 20 years, with the help of family and friends, numerous children and I have visited many places in the United States. We had fundraisers (yard sales, bake sales, fish fries, etc.). Because of the nature of my job, I met many beloved friends who graciously and generously supported my mission work materially and monetarily. In fact, I had one friend who would ask, “Did you raise enough money? How much do you need from me?”
One year we took the children to Cincinnati. A special friend arranged for us to meet privately with Thane Maynard, the Director/Vice President of Education at the Cincinnati Zoo. At that time, he was a writer and host of the National Public Radio daily feature “The 90-Second Naturalist” and “Thane Maynard’s Wild World” a daily television news feature that celebrates the wonders of nature.
Later, one of the young boys who traveled with us was sitting in a class studying about animals. The teacher showed a video of “Thane Maynard’s Wild World.” The shy young boy eagerly raised his hands and excitedly said, “I met him – we visited the Cincinnati Zoo!” The teacher said to his mom, “This is the first time he’s actually participated in my class.”
I also set another goal while in school. It was: If I had any children, I would carry them on a family vacation. I have been blessed to fulfill that mission. Another goal was to travel outside of the US before I reached the age of 50.
My son, upon enrolling in the Tupelo Schools four years ago met his now best friend, Trey. I, in turn met his wonderful family, John and Mary Bradley and her sister, Vonnia Clay. Last summer, Mrs. Bradley asked my children and me to accompany the Gray family and friends on a cruise (Bahamas, Puerto Rico, St. Thomas Islands, Grand Turks). Mrs. Bradley’s nephew, Rico, coordinated our itinerary.
By the grace of God, this May, two weeks before my 50th birthday, my children and I traveled with about 35 people from Tupelo on that cruise. I mingled with new and old friends in our group – the Woods, Brown, Smith, Bramlett, Vance, Hereford, Harris, Gaillard, and Jones families, Earlie, Annie, Lola, Sharon, Tressa, Cynthia, Pat, Brittany, and Leroy. I met this family from Canada – William, Ruvena, and Xavier King whom I am now corresponding with by e-mail.
I shall always be thankful and grateful for my mother who taught me the value and importance of developing relationships. A passage of scripture came to mind, “For I know the plans I have for you… to give you a future and a hope.”
My mother’s 86-year-old childhood friend, Rev. Fannie Cobb Johnson who lives in Chicago, while visiting our church said, “When I was younger, I knocked on the doors of the housing units in Chicago, I climbed stairs, I passed out tracts and compelled men and women to accept Christ and live a saved and righteous life. I traveled. I did mission work. I am old and feeble – I can’t do those things now. I don’t have any regrets. I did what I could when I could …”
Have you made any goals – are they obtainable? Do you have any personal dreams or visions that have not come to fruition? Do you have goals that would help make this world a better place? Please don’t have any regrets. Live your life to the fullest while you have a chance.
As you age – are there any regrets of unfulfilled dreams, visions or goals? You be the judge.
Juanita Gambrell Floyd is vice president for finance and administration at CREATE Foundation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.