By Juanita Floyd
Our Dear Heavenly Father, it is once more and again, we come to You as humbly as we know how. Thank You for waking us up this morning; … thank You for the relationships developed with family and friends over the years whose lives are intertwined with mine …” These words came from my 86-year-old mother, Bernice, (who sometimes forgets our names), as she said her prayers recently. After she finished, I emotionally said, “Mama, what beautiful and powerful words!”
I began to think about the relationships I have developed over the years in my own life – personal, professional, work related, etc. Remembering Mama’s prayer, I concurred that our lives really do become intertwined with others.
It doesn’t matter whether you are black, white, rich or poor – working together year after year – you share some of the same experiences in life. You celebrate milestones of children, care of elderly parents, death of family members, etc.
I thought about my working relationship with Mike Clayborne for 18 years.
Sadly, in January, I attended the homegoing celebration of Mike’s 101-year-old mother, Mrs. Alta Clayborne. As I sat in the chapel, I began to reflect on her life and how I knew her. I met his mother when he began his job at CREATE. She lived in Amory, so I didn’t see her much. Years later, Jack “Soap” Francis invited me to speak to the Amory Rotary Club. Much to my delight, 98-year-old Mrs. Clayborne attended. As the guests were announced, in Mike’s absence, she enthusiastically said, “I’m here representing Mike!”
A year later, my mother fell and broke her hip. One week later, Mrs. Clayborne fell and broke her hip. Ironically, our mothers were admitted to the same Rehabilitation Center, and their rooms were right down the hall from each other.
While visiting my mother almost daily for three months, I would visit Mrs. Clayborne as well. We talked about Mississippi State sports; her grandchildren, Kayla and Kelsey; her daughter-in-law, Julie; and of course, her beloved son, Mike. When I would see her in the dining hall or when personnel came into her room – she would proudly say, “She works for my son, Mike, at CREATE.”
One day out of the blue, she asked, “How does Mike treat you?” I recognized that question as one that every mother wants to affirm regardless of their child’s age – “Did I raise my child with the right set of values?”
Just for a moment in time, I thought about my earlier years with asthmatic children who were in and out of the hospital – how Mike allowed me to make up my time by working nights and weekends; I thought about the times when Mike allows me as an employee to discuss with him openly and candidly any situation in the office; I thought about the death of my nephew, Milton, others, and recently my fatherly neighbor growing up, Mr. Cluster Banks – the support I received; I thought about when I went through my divorce and instantly became a single mom taking care of three children – the support I received; and I thought about my mother who has been in and out of the hospital with strokes, blood clots, broken hip, etc. – the support I received.
I looked Mrs. Clayborne directly in the eyes and said, “Mrs. Clayborne, Mike has always treated me with dignity and respect. He is a good boss.” She sassily said, “He had better be a good boss!” And, then she soulfully said, “Thank you for telling me that.”
In your life, whether you live to be a 101 like Mrs. Clayborne, 32 like Milton, or 91 like Mr. Banks, how many relationships have you developed? Are they meaningful? Does color, gender, socio-economic status or age matter when your lives are deeply intertwined with others? You be the judge.
Juanita Gambrell Floyd is vice president for Finance and Administration at CREATE Foundation. Contect her at firstname.lastname@example.org.