My whole life has revolved around taking care of the people in my life.
When I was elementary school, my daddy worked 60 miles from home and didn't get home until 6:30 at night. My mama worked away from home as well and often didn't get home until 5:30 or later. When my two brothers and I got off the school bus in the afternoon it was my job to make sure that they did their chores and didn't kill each other before mama and daddy got home. I also started supper every evening. Most evenings it was ready and on the table when mama and daddy walked in the door. This continued until I got married.
Then there was Grace. She had shoulder length blond hair and blue eyes. As I recall, she had light colored freckles across the bridge of her nose. The first day she arrived our teacher introduced her to the class and I was excited that she got to sit by me. By the look on her face I could tell that she was scared. Almost immediately the other kids started making fun of her clothes and shoes. Her clothes were faded and worn and looked different from what the rest of us were wearing. I didn't like it that she was being teased and made fun of. I felt sorry for her and just wanted her to be my friend and to be her friend. By the end of the week, I brought Grace some of my clothes from home to see if she could wear them. I didn't tell my mama. Things just mysteriously disappeared from home. Wherever Grace went at school, I went. We were always together. Grace didn't seem to mind that the other kids made fun of her. She and I were friends and we just told the other kids to "shut up." We ignored them as much as we could and just did our own thing. And then about 2 weeks before school was out in May, she moved. I never saw her again. But I have never forgotten her.
A couple years after I married, we began having children. The first was born and I loved taking care of her. When she was nine months old, we got pregnant with our son. That was an interesting and challenging time - taking care of two babies under the age of two, but it worked out pretty well. At least for the female child anyway. It amazes me that I once ran into a high school friend who told me that she never thought I would have children. I thought that was an odd statement. Children were always in my plan. Someone to love and take care of. Absolutely.
As a teacher working with students everyday I had the opportunity to take care of ten years worth of students. When I first became a teacher I thought that my job was to teach my students the subjects they needed to be successful for the next grade level. Was I ever mistaken. My job became so much more. I took care of making sure my students had school supplies, warm clothes, lunch money, Christmas gifts, and the list goes on and may sound familiar to some of you.
As an administrator not much has changed. I often tell parents and students that they may think that the most important thing that I do is to make sure their child gets an education. But it is not. My most important job is to take care of the students and teachers at our school and make sure that they are safe and secure every single day. If they are, then we can get about the business of education. When I originally became an administrator, my goal was to make teachers' jobs easier. I work at that every day. Some days are more successful than others.
The most difficult task that I have had to take care of so far in my life has been to care for my mama when she was dying of cancer. My daddy had died suddenly in April of 1999 and mama got sick. Her doctor diagnosed her with pneumonia, but she just was not improving with medication. My brother checked her out of the hospital, took her to Tulsa and within two days she was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer.
God certainly gave me "grace" of a different kind during this time. I simply could not imagine watching my mama slowly die. I even told mama that I didn't think that I could handle being with her when she died. I was mistaken. God gives you grace and strength to do things that you cannot imagine. During the time my mama was ill, I continued teaching in Springdale, but spent every week night with her at her house in West Siloam. Family members took turns staying with her during the day so that she would never be alone. On Friday I would go to my home to see my husband and children, my brother would stay with mama, and I would return on Sunday. We continued this routine for 7 weeks. Four days before she died I had to make the very difficult decision to put her in a nursing home because we could no longer provide the care she needed. But because God gave me grace and strength, I was able to sit with my mama and hold her hand as she passed from this world into the arms of God. I would not have missed that for anything in this world.
I am so thankful for God's grace - both times.