At thirteen years old, I thought I knew everything that I could possibly know about myself. I knew I was smart, passionate, and determined enough to achieve whatever it was that my heart desired; and, thanks to the clarification that comes with hindsight, I can admit that I thought I was the ideal Christian. In a world where secular ideas have begun to flourish, I believed that I had fought the worst of them and, better yet, had won. These thoughts changed that summer.
As a new member of my church’s youth group, I was enthusiastic to show off my faith. Along with the summer heat, the annual mission trip was quickly approaching. Sitting in my garage, preparing my tools, I started to imagine how everything would happen: I would fix up some poor person’s home while telling the despairing soul about Jesus; and, thanks to me, by the end of the week, that once lost heart would be found. Yes, my humility was at an all time low.
When we arrived, we gathered in the sanctuary of the church to be assigned a job site and family. My group was assigned a Ms. Rose Solomon of Beaumont, Texas.
The nine members of my team were warmly welcomed at the Solomon house by an elderly African woman of about eighty. She introduced herself as Rose but told us to call her Mama. And so, with some hesitation, my group set to work.
That week, I scraped every wall in that old house, and slowly but surely, our appointed tasks were being completed. By Thursday, every room had been repainted, every light had been fixed, every fan would turn, every door would shut, and Ms. Rose had us all calling her Mama. As we sat that afternoon around our lunch, Ms. Rose told us her own story. She had gotten pregnant at fifteen, married her drug dealing boyfriend, and lived a desperately hard life. Her husband died of an overdose after two years of marriage, and she was on her own with two children at seventeen. She said that when she finally gave into the Lord, her whole life turned around.
That Friday just so happened to be my fourteenth birthday, and when Ms. Rose found out, well we couldn’t stop her. We sat around her dinner table that afternoon, in the freshly painted dinning room, and ate a meal that none of us deserved. After dinner, Ms. Rose handed me a gift. I pulled the paper back to find nine glass roses in an assortment of colors secured tightly by Styrofoam. She gave us all one and told us to always remember her. Mine was yellow and it sits now, as I type this paper, on a shelf to my right. Every time I catch the yellow flicker as it dances across my room, I am reminded of a woman who gave everything to her kids, her church, her God, and nine strangers she would never see again. Ms. Rose taught me how to love deeply, cherish everything, and live for everyone but myself. You see, I left as a teacher, but returned as a student; I left as a girl, but returned as a woman. Though I didn’t travel far physically, my faith had reached a place it had never been. I will always remember what Ms. Rose did for me.
My words-of-wisdom to traveling teens is this: you don’t have to go great lengths to find something new, including yourself.
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