October 15, 2013

Time sure passes in this place.  Lives are lived, loves are lost and the landscape even changes. People live and people die, it’s just the way of things. Young ones grow up and spread their wings, towns change and few things remain the same.


You can leave home.  Stay away a few decades and come back. Store fronts have been bought and sold and changed to another name altogether.  Neighborhoods change, even the homes where the older folks live, you can tell by the yards that things have changed.  Once so pristine and well kept, bushes are ragged at the ends and the newspapers gather in the driveway for several days at a time.  Yes, it’s different, the old neighborhoods.


The only thing that really doesn’t change too much is memories.  Oh, they transform a bit in importance and detail, but their essence remains.  Forever etched in our minds.  It is amazing how the glass of time brings some things into focus.  The smallest things were often hidden in the mundane duties of life.  Sometimes incredible things were taking place.  Things that could not be seen up close, only perceived at a distance.  A distance of time and focus. A distance of maturity and experience.  What a wonderful telescope we develop in our revisitation of memories.  It’s wonderful and magical as meaning appears.  Destinies perceived and the fabric of our lives begin to resemble something purposeful, ever so slightly.


It is here in this place of childhood memories that I discovered something…


I will tell you of a wonderful woman that crossed my path as a child.  As I look back, it seems like a whisper.  A voice I desperately needed to hear.  Her name was Willy.  A cute name, I thought, that suited her well.  I was only around 5 years old when she entered my life as a memory.  She may have been around sooner, but I don’t recall much before the age of five.


You see, I grew up in the south. My parents were upper middle class.  My father was a lawyer and my mother was a housewife and at home with us while growing up. We had a housecleaner or maid as they were called in the day, that came and worked a couple of days a week.  I have a vague memory of how she looked, our maid Willy.  She was an older black lady.  I remember she was older because of her wrinkled hands and she had a slight bend in her back.  Mostly I remember her hands. 


She wore a smock type of jacket all the time with really big pockets in them.  I watched her as she dusted and cleaned.  Mom had me stay in my room and play most of the time so I would not get in her way while she worked.  Still, I would walk from my bedroom to the kitchen for a glass of water or snack.   My bright blue eyes and small frame shyly trying to catch glimpses of her.  I was curious about her.  I think she knew it.


Somehow we developed a connection.  Looking back I understand now the wisdom she must have possessed.  I think she could perceive much more than my little five year old mind could possibly have understood. There was a kindness about her, I think she would have picked me up and twirled me around if she could have, but there were unspoken rules.  Boundaries that I could not understand, but I felt them as if they were right there in front of me.  It was the sixties and things were changing, but there were still tangible echos of racial tensions etched in memories, although alien to me.


Then one day she gave me a big grin.  When no one was around she pulled me aside on my little trip to the kitchen and out of her pocket she pulled a tootsie roll.  She put her  wrinkled finger to her lips and said, “shhhh…this will be our little secret”. I was delighted. I’m not sure whether it was because I loved candy or the fact that I had a secret! I think it was both.


We never talked much, but I could feel the warmth of her soul. She had such a rich spirit, this mysterious lady. Every time she came over, I new with certainty, that there was a tootsie roll inside of that big pocket.  Two things I could count on at such a young age, the tootsie roll in her pocket and a big loving grin that kept the secret love and friendship that was between us. That was really my first memory of such a pure love. There was nothing I had done to make this lady love me.  She just did. 


I learned another valuable lesson from her.  The power of a secret.  Secrets seem to make things so powerful.  It strengthened my bond with her, simply because only she and I shared a knowledge of it.


I did not understand it, not for many, many years, but that small gesture imprinted on my little heart one of the greatest things a human soul can experience.  Love like God’s love and the intimacy of a shared secret.  Love that is not earned, just given freely and the beautiful feeling of being connected in a way that cannot be seen.  A whisper from God Himself, breathed out by the humblest of His servants.  No one else saw her offering, but I know it was to God like the woman in the Bible story that gave the two pennies at the temple. It was the smallest gift that day in amount, but as Jesus watched and taught His disiples, it was the greatest of gifts because of the posture of her heart.


Willy had eyes that could see.  She could see a lonely little girl that needed connection, that needed love.  When I was growing up, there was a gap between adults and children, at least in my home. Children were to be seen and not heard, but she found a way to get past the unspoken boundaries of the day.  Her love was greater than any boundary and her God showed her how!  She left a stamp upon my heart of something so pure and true, that only God knows the depth of that impact on my later life. 


I’m not quite sure why she had to quit working for us, but I was heartbroken when she did.  I suspect it was her age and the fact we had moved into a larger house must have been a bit much.  We got another housekeeper, but there was no more whisper of love, not like Willy.  It left a hole in my heart, but the seed she had planted in me remained.


I didn’t see Willy again and many years passed.  Then, when I was graduating from high school, I got a card from her.  I didn’t even know she was still living. The card said “congratulations” on my graduation day. She wrote on the card that she had been praying for me all those years. It really shook me up.  She had never stopped thinking about me!  What kind of angel was she? This wonderful woman named Willy? Who loves like that for so long with no recompense? I had not seen her since I was five, but yet she counted the years and knew when I would graduate. How many times had my life been spared or touched because of her prayers? How amazing was her faithfulness to God and her divine mission to pray for me and I’m sure others.


Never underestimate the power of Love!  I surely want to be there in the courts of heaven when Jesus calls her name.  I can’t even imagine the wonderful rewards He has planned for her.  The heart of the humble, the richest hearts of all.  Lord, may I be like the beautiful Willy,  planting Your seeds and may the seeds come up as a living garden before You!







She came with silent treasure

Flowing through her veins

Hidden by an outward shell

And so few knew her name


Living life so quietly

Yet powerful she was

For those that had a heart to feel

A reservoir of love


Kindness in her fingertips

Wrinkled so with age

Carried great intentions

To write upon my page


Into my life God sent her

With stealth she sweetly sowed

No one saw the planting seed

That she knew He would grow


My heart an empty garden

No one was aware

But she had special eyes to see

What needed tender care


Right there in the beginning

Before the God of all

She praised Him with her living

She broke down Satan’s wall


The world may not remember

This heavenly handmaid

But honor surely waits her

In the courts on Judgement Day.


copyright  2012  Jean Chamblee