Sorry. Have to mention it again...("The Village Girl Handbook"). Among the stories in this recently published book (I keep talking about) is a story I wrote about about a super lady who was my pastor's wife during junior high and high school. Ms Donna was (and is a gem) and I wanted the world to know it. I got a handwritten letter from her today reminding me once again what a treasure she is. It included some "tea party" pictures from days with Ms Donna. Don't be jealous of my hair (or my sweet jeans).
We called her Ms. Donna. She had perfect blond, chin-length hair that turned under. She wore red lipstick and bright colored dresses on Sunday. She was soft spoken, but you listened to hear what she would say. She was our preacher’s wife.
She and her husband, Brother Jimmy lived in the rock house across the street from the church. It was a small gingerbread-looking house that was owned by the church. It was a plain with tan carpet and white walls. Soon after moving to Iredell, Ms. Donna decided to paint the entire downstairs an unpopular color, the color of a green olive.
Though some might underestimate the possibility in a color likened to the hue of puke, it looked quite beautiful. She made that little house fancy. I know, because she invited me and a couple of other girls over for a tea party and luncheon when we were teenagers.
On Tea Party Day, I wore an unladylike blue jean skirt and a shirt that had been decorated with puff paint (which was popular at the time but probably not appropriate for a tea party). She served croissants and other fun foods on her fine china and talked to us like we were ladies and friends; something we hadn't thought yet to consider ourselves. Her invitation and kindness made a good impression on me.
When she would see me, she would ask how I was, and she really wanted to know. She wasn't just being nice.
My admiration for Ms. Donna would only continue to grow as I learned more about her. She and her husband, Brother Jimmy had five children. Their youngest son was born blind, but it was easy to recognize that he had been raised not to let this disability limit him. One daughter had died tragically, and another would battle cancer at a young age.
Ms. Donna would serve as a picture of faith. She never appeared to be angry or feel sorry for herself. Neither did she seem eaten up with worry, even when her husband had a terrible stroke that left him struggling to walk or speak. All of these things seemed to further her need to talk to, and count on, Jesus.
She was dainty and beautiful like the pale flowers that edged the teacups she used to serve us. Yet she was strong, the complete opposite of the fine china that decorated her dining room. I was loved by Ms. Donna. It wasn't a part of her job description. She was just good at it. She was good at it, I suppose because she loved Jesus. Ms. Donna took the time to learn who I was. But it was in the time I took to learn who she was that I was changed for the better.
Check out The Village Girl Handbook here.
Future volumes of The Village Girl Handbook are in the works. If you have a story of a mentor, someone who encouraged you during your middle school or high school years, I'd love to hear it. Send me an email if you're interested in including your story in a future volume in the special section of the book Your Village.