Through It All: A Compilation of Short Stories Based on Lived Experiences

Through It All: A Compilation of Short Stories Based on Lived Experiences

by Gloria Watkins Brown PhD

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Overview

A faith journey is shared, and testimonials are provided on how the author overcame a plethora of social ills, sickness, and hard times in general. Riveting stories are told of overcoming illness, miracles, dire poverty, domestic violence, jealousy, grief, and racism by having faith and depending on his grace and mercy.


Each chapter begins with a scripture; a story is told, followed by a prayer; and each story ends with “Questions to Ponder.” The reader can envision how the author persevered through it all.


The stories are meant to reach audiences that are personally interested in overcoming social ills and helping others overcome social ills and finding hope through stories of the author’s phenomenological (lived) experiences, scripture, prayer, and examining questions related to how the author overcame some very difficult circumstances. This book is ideal for a Bible study or other Christian curricula devoted to faith.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781524674014
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 02/25/2017
Pages: 108
Sales rank: 334,028
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.26(d)

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CHAPTER 1

Ups and Downs of Childhood

When my mother married a second time, I am told that I was 2 years old. My grandparents, allegedly, wanted to adopt me but my mother was not having that. She took me to live with her husband and her. I never liked being there and can remember studying very hard while in school just to keep my mind off my living situation.

I didn't feel good about my looks because I could always overhear adults asking why I didn't look like the rest of the children in the family. Children would tease me about my color, the texture of my hair, and would call me "ugly". The only way I knew how to feel good about myself was to be smart so I always aspired to succeed academically.

I learned things easily and the old people in the community thought I never did anything wrong. My cousin, Ed, could always talk me into doing something crazy. One Saturday while visiting my grandparents, Ed convinced me that we should figure out how not to go to church on Sunday. We plotted to play sick so we could cook in the woods. We made up coughs and lied saying we both had headaches. My grandmother said, "There must be something going around". She gave us medicine and pampered us the way she knew how to do so well. Ed and I were careful not to be too active or she would figure out we were not sick. She asked our grandfather (Daddy) if he would agree for her to go to church while he watched the sick children. He agreed.

Daddy had a habit of nodding by the fireplace so we knew he would sleep long enough for us to cook in the woods the next day. On that Saturday, Ed found an empty 5-gallon can and a wire rack to use for the grill. We went into the woods that Saturday to set up our kitchen. Ed built the stove, took matches from the mantel, stole a mason jar of kerosene, put twigs in the 5-gallon can, and covered it with the grill. I sneaked in the kitchen and took enough of everything for two: ham, eggs, knives, forks, spoons, and syrup. We were innocent about our dangerous set-up.

The problem was not just our cooking in the woods. We set up the homemade stove and started a fire in the middle of pine thicket. There were dry pine needles all around. We never finished cooking because a huge fire was started immediately and quickly got out of control. Daddy smelled the smoke and came running out of the back door asking what we had done. We were both crying as we told him we were cooking. The volunteer fire department came and cut trenches here and there. I am not sure of what else they did to stop the fire because there was no running water. In short, we burned up about 3 acres of pine trees. I often wonder how much money those trees were worth then and how much they would have been worth now. After that incident, my grandparents sent me back to Preston saying that when Ed and I were together, we always got into too much trouble.

My step-father was a heavy drinker and his friends, who were also heavy drinkers, would gravitate to our house on weekends. I remember developing the habit of rocking all the time while sitting. It seemed that rocking would make some of the pain of having to look at the drunk men go away. I think I developed "bad nerves" at an early age. I probably needed counseling but receiving that kind of help was unheard of in the little town where we lived. Had my family known about psychological health, it would have been frowned upon and avoided, I am sure.

The rocking habit carried over into my classes. Students and teachers would ask why I rocked all the time. One boy who always taunted me said laughingly, "Rocking must be the reason you get all "dem" A's. 'I think I'll start rocking". He was not a good student. I think he always acted out to get attention and to cover up for his lack of brilliance.

I was smart but I couldn't "outlearn" the one girl in my senior class who was valedictorian. Our accumulative averages were less than 1 percentage point apart. I was salutatorian. I didn't think there was anything discriminatory about the calculation by hand and if I had thought so, I would not have been able to prove it. Back then, it was considered disrespectful to challenge teachers.

When I was a young girl, my mother was a member of an organization called Heroines of Jericho (HOJ). Daughters of the members of HOJ joined an associated organization called Children's Palace (CP). I remember being excited about going to the meetings. We lived in the country and there was not much to do beyond running across the fields and gathering vegetables from the garden. Belonging to the CP was exciting because I liked going to the meetings, remembering the password for entrance, and reciting rituals. It was soon discovered that the Masons were giving a scholarship every year and they were awarded on a competitive basis. To compete, one had to participate in an oratorical contest on the local level. The winner at the local level would move to the state level to compete at the Masonic Temple.

For 3 years, the same girl competed from my chapter and did not move beyond the local level. I kept asking my mother why I could not compete. She continuously responded that she had been told that only one person from a chapter could compete. I was persistent and repeatedly asked why. I suppose she was tired of my asking why I couldn't compete, so she wrote to the Grand Master of the organization asking if more than one person could compete from a chapter. He responded "Yes" in a matter of a few days. Excited to know that I really could compete and could probably win a scholarship, I went to work on preparing my speech. The required title was, The Constitution of the United States as it Affects the American Negro. I had a cousin who was an English teacher and she gladly edited my speech. She gave me pointers on how to sit, approach the podium, enunciate words, the importance of voice inflections, and to never say "Thank You" at the end of a speech because the speaker has done a favor for the audience.

I won at the local and regional levels and advanced to state competition. I thought I looked pretty in the beautiful white brocade dress my Aunt Ella had purchased for me and sent from Up North. I also remember the day of the competition being a dark, dreary, and rainy Saturday in 1962. The worse thing about the day was that I was sick and didn't know if I could get through the speech after months of practicing and believing I could win. My only thought was to pray because I had been taught that God could do anything but fail.

Students from the all districts sat on the stage in the Masonic Temple waiting to speak. To determine the order in which we would speak, we pulled numbers. I pulled the number 13. I had always been told that 13 was unlucky, so I prayed silently asking God not to let the number 13 be unlucky for me. I needed the $1200 scholarship that would be awarded to one of us. After all, a $1200 scholarship in 1962 was probably synonymous to a $10,000 scholarship in the current day and age.

I believed that God was omnipresent and He surely was for He favored me and I won. The Masons also sent me a surprise check in the amount of $50.00 that arrived just in time for Christmas. From the whole experience of getting to a place where I knew I was eligible to compete to winning the scholarship, I never gave up. I had worked hard and that dark and dreary December day in 1962 was my season to reap. Several factors went into my winning the scholarship and I believe persistence was one of them. "And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9, ESV).

"For who so findeth me findeth life, and shall obtain favour of the LORD (Proverbs 8:34, King James Version). God will render us favor but I think he needs us to do work to earn it. I believe we earn it by knowing Him and believing in Him. I believe that if we know Him and trust Him, he will help us to discern appropriate steps. An appropriate step for my mother was to simply inquire about the rules of the competition for the oratorical contest. If my mother had not inquired about the competition rules, I might never have made it to local, district, or state competition and would not have earned the scholarship I needed and deserved.

I will always respect the Masons for they opened the door for me to get into college. The math for paying for tuition, room, and board was becoming easier. My grandfather, whom I loved so dearly, had already told me I was going to college if every tree in his forest had to be cut. He owned over 300 acres of land in a wooded area.

In Alabama, there were churches all around but since worship service was held once a month in most, I worshiped differently as I attended Oak Grove Missionary Baptist Church one Sunday, the Church of God in Christ (referred to as the Sanctified Church) the next Sunday, Dusty Ridge Baptist Church when I visited my grandparents, and sometimes I would go to Burning Bush Methodist Church with my great grandmother. I think it was Methodist Episcopal at the time.

Since I played piano, I was often invited to other churches to perform; especially at revival time. I could earn anywhere from $7.00-$12.00 for the week. While that sounds like very little money, I bought something special to wear and had money left over to boast about at school. Speaking of diversity in worship styles, I saw Baptist, Church of God in Christ, and Methodist, so I'd say the experience was ecumenical.

Since I was a little girl, I remember knowing that I was a "Negro" and classified as less than the European American children with whom I often played. It always puzzled me that a European American family rented cotton acreage from my family and paid with ¼ of the value of the crops. The European American adults would work in the fields while their children played with my brothers and me. They'd bring a lunch with them which usually consisted of either peanut butter or mayonnaise sandwiches. The children would try to come early enough to catch us eating breakfast. They did so because my mother would always offer them cereal. They told us they never had cereal at home. This European American family was poor yet it was clear that they still thought they were better although we had land and they did not.

I still wonder why my race of people is still held in such disdain by the European American people. I later learned that those feelings of disdain were not only held in the South but Up North and other places in the world. Saying "Yes Mam" and "Yes Sir" were expected responses to all adults, so to respond in that language to European American adults did not seem like a huge demand.

While growing up, I was never quite happy about my living conditions. I wanted to live with my grandparents but my mother was never going to let that happen. The man my mother was married to the second time around was not my father. I always knew that and always felt a disconnect. My stepfather worked out of town and came home every 2 or 3 months. Because he had a good job, he sent money home to my mother on a regular basis and we could live comfortably. Meanwhile, we did not get to travel further than a 25-mile radius, so I had not seen much of the world. I would marvel over the kinds of cars people drove and the kinds of clothes they wore when they came home from "Up North". Back then, I interpreted any location outside of the state of Mississippi as "Up North". I fantasized about growing up, moving "up North", and coming home in a Pepto Bismol Pink Cadillac while wearing a pink velvet suit. In my mind, Cadillacs and velvet translated into wealth.

As I fantasized, I would bring myself back to reality by looking at the horizon and gazing at land as far as I could see. I would try to figure out what I needed to do to get away from where I was. Yes, there was racism but it was the norm. I did not realize just how bad things were. I was not figuring out how to go "up North" because of racism but because of boredom.

Because I didn't look like the girls with the right last name, I didn't have many friends. At school, I would ask to help teachers during recess and lunch periods. In high school, I would use my lunch period to practice typing and reached the speed of 92 accurate words per minute. On days that I didn't practice typing, I went to the music room to practice piano or voice. I never went outside because I would have had to find a spot to stand alone because no one would talk to me. I can say that practicing piano payed off because on graduation night, I didn't march. My classmates marched in as I played the graduation march. In fact, I played all the music for the graduation ceremony.

I graduated high school and was still confined to my local community. I remember telling my grandfather that I was 18 years old and out of high school but had not been beyond 14 miles of where we lived. He laughed and told me I didn't need to go anywhere. He was content with my not experiencing anything else in the world other than what I already knew and had seen. I knew he loved me and that he was not being mean. Keeping me in close confines was his way of protecting me.

CHAPTER 2

Poverty Lurks

"Precious treasure and oil are in a wise man's dwelling, but a foolish man devours it" (Proverbs 21:20, English Standard Version).

Since my early 20's, I had not done well with money. Either I had not earned enough or I did not manage well. This "curse" spanned many years into my adulthood.

I am lifetime certified in "Bridges out of Poverty", a controversial process developed by Dr. Ruby Payne that informs large audiences about poverty and how it relates to education. The research continuum on poverty is concerned with behaviors such as being on welfare, lack of work ethic and commitment to achievement, dropping out of school, and criminal behavior, among others (Devol, Payne, & Smith, 2011, p. 18). None of these is a description of my case.

Early in my adult life, I lived on remote farmland owned by my parents and grandparents. There were no criminals in the family and no one was on welfare. I was college-educated, didn't miss work unless I was sick, and family members went to school to the extent that they could. Growing up, I knew of a lawyer, a pharmacist, a nurse, and a few teachers who were family members. Everyone worked hard around me and tried to have money in the bank, own land, cars or trucks, cattle, homes, enough cash on hand to feed the family, and to go on vacation occasionally.

Devol, Payne, & Smith (2011) separate poverty into two categories: Generational and Situational. I concluded that the time I spent in poverty was situational. I could not blame my forefathers for the fact that I slipped into an impoverished situation. It was derived from poor-decision-making and not having a clear understanding that, at some point, I needed to become financially responsible just as the older members of the family had exhibited before me. Generational poverty did not enter the picture because based on my understanding of poverty, my family had accumulated as much as the average African American family and was not considered poor by African American standards. I am not a product of generational poverty.

Family names meant a lot. If a person had a certain last name or was a descendant of a certain last name, that person was automatically considered middle class. Others who did not have the right last name and accumulated wealth were those who were said to have stolen from others or who sold "bootleg" whiskey and home brew in "dry" (places where selling alcohol was illegal) counties.

Maternally, I hailed from a family with the right last name but I did not always live up to the name of "having something". I lived with my grandparents and taught at the African American High School. My grandfather (aka Daddy) told me to save my money because living with my grandmother and him would not cost me anything. I was not even required to buy toothpaste. Daddy opened an account with the local grocer and told the owner to give me anything I wanted. He paid at the end of the month so I could save my money. He even paid for the gas I used to get to and from work in his pickup truck.

I assured him that I would save my money. Each month I took most of my money to the bank and deposited it. On each payday, Daddy would ask how much money I had saved. I always told him how much I deposited but never told him how often I was making trips to the bank between paydays to withdraw money. After all, I needed lots of fashionable dresses and shoes, money for getting my hair done, and some money for partying. I didn't have much of a heart for saying, "No", so I had the tendency to lend money to people who did not always repay. Daddy wouldn't have understood any of this.

Finally, the Chevy Camaros hit showrooms everywhere and oh how I wanted one of those pretty cars! I had been driving my grandfather's pickup truck to work but when I saw the Camaro, I knew I had to have one. I told my grandfather I wanted one of those Camaros and he responded that I had been saving my money and deserved to have the kind of car I wanted. I guess I had a strange look on my face, so he asked what was bothering me. I told him I didn't have quite enough money to buy the car. His next question was, "Just how much money do you have"? I told him I had only saved $76.00 and he was shocked. He was not one to use profanity but on that day, he blurted out an obscenity that is probably not in any dictionary. He told me that amount was not enough to pay for my tag (aka license plate).

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Through It All"
by .
Copyright © 2017 Gloria Watkins Brown, PhD..
Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Dedication, vii,
Introduction, ix,
Ups and Downs of Childhood, 1,
Poverty Lurks, 13,
God's Plans are Not My Plans, 33,
Pain among the Least of These, 37,
His Miracles, 57,
Vengeance is the Lord's, 69,
On Grieving: Wounds Reopened, 77,
References, 95,

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