By Juanita Floyd
I recently received a call from my pastor’s wife asking me to go to the ER. My childhood friend, Vera Cummings Nabors, had been involved in a serious car accident. I stayed with her several hours so her sister, Wanda, could go home for a while. Our conversation centered on the mishaps of life and how we choose to cope with those mishaps. She said, “I remember what you said a few years ago about how you handled so many problems in your life.”
In reading the story of Job in the Bible, he was faced with one problem after another in a short period of time. Many times in life we, too, are faced with calamities and situations that sometimes shake us off our foundation of comfort and security, and oft times make us question our faith.
Five years ago, during a six week period, I actually felt like Job – a cadre of storms happened to me one right after the other! I was thrust into single parenthood. My sister’s only child, Milton, was killed in a car accident. I had to deal with a 16-year-old son who was angry with the world. Out of respect for my children, family and friends, I won’t disclose the other catastrophes that occurred simultaneously.
An unknown author said, “Adversity is a fact of life. It can’t be controlled. What we can control is how we react to it.” In dealing with those adverse situations I said, “As a family we can throw our hands up, sit back and cry, or get up and keep going. With the Lord’s help, I choose to keep going.”
I recall thinking, “How am I going to raise 16- and 12-year-old black boys in a society, according to statistics, that is somewhat against them (dropout rates, gangs, profiling, etc.) and a 10 year old daughter, by myself? How will I take care of running a household, the yard, the cars, etc?”
As I prayed, the answer came to me from what my mother had instilled in me as a child. It was: keeping my faith in the Lord; loving my fellowman; and building relationships with people. It doesn’t matter whether a person is black or white or rich or poor; when you find yourself in the midst of storms, you need each other. Oprah Winfrey said, “Surround yourself with people who will lift you higher.”
I have been blessed and surrounded by many people who have helped me on my journey in life, including family, friends, my boss, co-workers, Jeff and staff with Tom’s Automotive, etc. My Pastor Hayes Long has been instrumental in being a mentor to my sons. He constantly encourages them to make the right choices in life. He talks to them about how to carry themselves as young black men; how to respond if they are pulled over by policemen; how to walk away from dangerous situations; and how to respect their mother and others. Recently, he blessed my second child, Taylor, with a much needed car that has been in his family. He wanted my son to be able to have a way to his summer job, football workouts, school, etc.
I remember when my oldest son wanted to study underwater welding, my brother, Frank, took personal time off from his job to help him drive to Jacksonville, Fla., for the program. He gave him that “man to man” talk about how to conduct himself.
This year on Mother’s Day, Tyler (now 21) said these words to our church congregation, “I don’t have a dictionary, or a thesaurus, nor do I have a lot of big words to describe my mom. I have two words – “the best.” We have had struggles, especially as boys, over the last few years. Yet, as a single parent she kept us together…she kept our home!…”
At that moment, every heartache and pain suffered, every tear shed, every prayer prayed, every wrong or right decision in rearing my children and running a household, every question from my children of why can’t we have …, every plant that I killed in the yard with the wrong spray, the high water bill when my pipes burst and I didn’t know you needed a special tool to turn the water off, was worth every effort it has taken to survive. The scripture that came to mind was, “They that wait upon the Lord, He shall renew their strength…”
When storms and mishaps come upon you, how will you react? Will you throw up your hands or will you hang in there? You be the judge.
Community columnist Juanita Gambrell Floyd is vice president for finance and administration at CREATE Foundation. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.