Griffin Lilly’s Mother

by Wayne (Tony) Mabes
Blue Ridge, Texas, USA

Griffin Lilly's Mother

As a youngster, I lived in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia and attended the local elementary school. Money was scarce in my family, mainly because my father had been disabled in a coal mine cave-in. Christmas was a particularly painful time for us. My parents agonized about how they could give us kids gifts for Christmas. Of course, participating in the tradition of drawing names in school to exchange gifts with other children was not a possibility. For me, there were no talks with friends about who got whose name and “what were you gonna get” for that kid. I felt so left out.

But the most painful part came on the day when the long-awaited gifts were brought to school for exchange and I had none to give — and I knew that I alone would not receive a gift. I knew, as well as an eight-year-old kid could know, this was just another thing I missed out on because my family was poor. The party started and the opening of gifts was the first order of business. Our teacher picked up the first gift and read my name! I was so excited!

This happened three more times during my elementary years. Years later, I found that the gifts had come from Mrs. Lilly, the mother of Griffin, one of my classmates. And I was not the only child to whom she had given gifts.

I now live far away from the hills of West Virginia and far from the poverty I suffered as a child. Her kindness and generosity made a deep impression on me, and I try often to recognize other people’s needs as she did and to help them as well. And in 1997, while visiting family “back home,” I stopped by and thanked Mrs. Lilly personally. But now, I’d like to let the whole world know that “there’s gold in them thar hills.” It is Griffin Lilly’s mother.

Originally published as HeroicStories #8 on May 18, 1999
Available in The Best of HeroicStories, Volume 1.

5 thoughts on “Griffin Lilly’s Mother”

  1. It’s an amazing thing the amount of joy that one can receive from reading just one letter of just one selfless act or the selfless life of a great person such as this woman. I know I have. She’s just a little glimpse of heaven, how great it will be. It is where She will receive her Crown of glory with her rewards for her good works and of course, perfect joy and perfect peace that never ends. God bless you Mam

  2. Mrs Lilly is certainly a hero. In my opinion, so is Tony to follow up and thank her for the impact she had on his life. Sometimes a bit of encouragement / appreciation gives the person the ability to keep on.

  3. All the stories I read on hear are touching but this one made me cry. My granddaughter is eight years old and the thought of her being in this situation and someone caring enough to do what this wonderful woman did is a read tear jerker. Thank you so much for your emails letting us know that there really are good people ‘out there.’

  4. If you have a little more than you need, give it to someone who has a little more need than you. In that way you can always enjoy what you have with a full, gracious heart. No matter how little you have, you always have time, kindness, SOMETHING you can share with someone else. This is the meaning of life for me, and I’m so glad to see it is for others as well.

  5. I lived in WV for 10 wonderful years! Not only was the air, the land and the mountains more beautiful that any place I’d seen before, but the people were so real – so down to earth – so aware of the feelings of all. I cried when I left there to return to Texas, where I’d grown up and my family still lived. But I’ll never forget “Wild and Wonderful WV”!! Every time I hear Glen Campbell sing “Country Roads, Take me Home” I think of my beautiful mountain home!!


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