OPINION: In the end, it’s how you lived, helped that matter most

Entering the holiday season, thoughts are turned to events of joy. However, every now and then there are times of sorrow. In November, I attended the homegoing services of Mrs. Lassie Woodruff Shawver at Red Hill Baptist Church and Mr. Harry Walker at the First Presbyterian Church. Their lives chronicled each other’s in their unselfish love of family, people, church and community.
Mrs. Lassie, as she was fondly referred to by everyone in the Red Hill community, was our family’s long time neighbor and friend. She made a positive difference in my life, even as a young teenager, by constantly encouraging me to excel. She loved her church and community and always participated in events that benefited the community. She gave her money and time and never asked for anything in return.
During her eulogy, Pastor Willie Bogan stated, “She believed it was her duty and responsibility as a Christian to help, serve and give to people. In her early eighties she didn’t have the physical strength, but she kept working. She used her car to run errands for people. One happened to be wheelchair bound. I saw her at a store struggling to put the wheelchair in the trunk. I stopped to help. She said, “The Lord sent you by.”
I put the wheelchair in her car and asked, “Do you need me to follow you to get it out?”
She said with unwavering faith, “The same way the Lord sent you – he’ll send someone else to help me.”
He concluded by stating, “I asked her, ‘Why do you continue to give and help? Her reply, ‘I’m going Home one day and I want stars in my crown.’”
Mr. Walker and I developed a relationship years ago when he came by the office selling onions, fruitcakes, etc., for his beloved Civitan Club. After learning about the mission and services of CREATE, he established an Advised Fund and later an Endowment Fund to carry out his charitable purposes. He visited me monthly. Ironically, the last time he visited, a week before his death, he didn’t talk about his funds or Civitan – he only offered words of encouragement to me regarding my life.
First Presbyterian’s pastoral visitor, Dr. Ron Richardson, spoke eloquently of his life: “Harry’s life was a witness of his faith in what he did for his family, church and community. He had the deepest respect for people regardless of their position in life. He approached everyone as an equal. He did nothing for show. What he did was from the heart. Harry was interested in letting what he did be a witness of the love and care of God.”
An emotional moment occurred for me at the conclusion of the service. Harry’s wife, Ellen, walked with her hands on the casket as it rolled down the aisle. As it passed by my pew, with tears streaming down my face, I silently said, “Thank you, Mr. Walker, for being a witness in my life.”
Referencing the biblical story of The Good Samaritan, Dr. King said, “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me? But the Good Samaritan reversed the question: If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?’”
Ms. Lassie and Mr. Walker were of different races and cultures. Yet, in their service to others, it was evident that race, socio-economic status, or different denominations didn’t matter. As Good Samaritans they helped people unconditionally.
As I sat in each service, questions surfaced in my mind: Have I touched someone’s life? Have I given? Have I been a Good Samaritan? Have I helped people unconditionally? Has my life been a witness? Is someone better because I lived? As a teacher is there a student; as an employer is there an employee; as a pastor is there a member; or a friend who would say, “My life is better because you lived”?
Educator Booker T. Washington said, “A life is not worth much of which it cannot be said, when it comes to its close, that it was helpful to humanity.”
During this season, many celebrate the powerful gift of God – the birth of His Son, Jesus Christ. Some celebrate by giving and receiving gifts. However you celebrate this season – pause, reflect and ask yourself, “Will my gift or service touch lives like Mrs. Lassie’s and Mr. Harry’s?
You be the judge.

Contact community columnist Juanita G. Floyd at juanita@createfoundation.com, or write to her at P.O. Box 1053, Tupelo, MS 38802.

Juanita Gambrell Floyd