Life was hard for my ancestors, especially for my great grandmother, Lela, as a sharecropper. They awakened each day to work from sunup until sundown in the fields, kids included. Going to school was a treat not so much because they were eager to learn but because it meant they got to take a break from farming. Lela often didn’t know where the next meal was coming from and had to make do with what few staples she had on hand as any money paid to her husband seldom made it back home.
Grandmama says some days they’d come in so tired from the fields that they’d walk into the house and just fall asleep on the first spot of empty floor they came to. Lela would get a bowl of water and a rag and go around and wash the dirt off of their feet, letting them rest before waking them up and sending them to crowd into one bed for the night.
If anyone ever had a right to throw a big old pity party it was the people I came from, which makes their example all the more important to me. You see, Lela never complained. She woke up each morning with a smile on her face, humming a little tune as she went about preparing a simple breakfast of biscuits and gravy - because there was seldom any meat. But no one looked at that breakfast and said “Oh, just biscuits and gravy.” Instead their attitude was “Isn’t it wonderful that we can have biscuits and gravy.”
Their attitudes were always positive, always hopeful, and always grateful for what little they had. They had the ability to look at the cotton field as it was blazed beneath the Alabama sun and think to themselves “Aren’t we lucky that we have this field to tend and food on the table?” They could walk into the shack house and think “Isn’t it wonderful that we have this roof over our heads?”.
Their happiness was not dependent upon a set of ideal circumstances, it was entirely dependent on their own attitudes and how they willingly chose to look at life.
I cannot think of a finer legacy to have been given or a more important one to pass on to my children.Share