Jackie Smith Clayton Bennett
During the fall of 1982, my first year in college, my parents advertised in the local paper for a housekeeper and caregiver for my mother, who was a quadriplegic. The only respondent was an African American woman from the nearby community of Nicodemus, founded in the 1870s by former slaves known as “Exodusters”. When I learned my father had hired her, a large knot formed deep in my stomach.
Although my father had a great sense of humor and a huge heart, he was also a product of his white Anglo-Saxon Protestant Kansas upbringing and a notorious bigot. I believed he would behave horribly to this woman. Memories flooded back: the gentleman who drove into our farm yard in the middle of summer with an overheating car and my father’s cruel refusal to allow him any water. The racist comments Dad had made over the years, and so forth.
Shortly after Rosa started working for my parents, I telephoned home. When she answered, I introduced myself and asked to speak to my mother. Rosa replied “I think she’s out jogging.”
Fishlike, my mouth opened and closed until I heard her laugh. Meeting her in person, I found a woman of dignity, laughter and gentleness who cooked the most delicious meals imaginable. One day I asked Rosa where she had learned to cook so well. “My mother taught me to make everything with love and it would turn out right” was her answer.
My father was polite and courteous, but interacted little with Rosa the first few times I was home. As time progressed, I watched their relationship grow and my father’s demeanor change. Within a few months, they were bantering back and forth, joking, laughing, and squabbling like siblings.
One day Dad told me because of Rosa he had learned to judge a person by what’s on the inside, not by skin color. Her goodness and love had touched him deeply, changing his lifelong attitudes.
Years later, after my father’s death, Rosa told me friends had warned her not to work for him. On her first day of work, Dad demanded his meals be on the table promptly at 12 noon and 6 p.m., not 10 to 15 minutes later. She complied. Then one day, he was late arriving to eat and she had already removed his plate from the table. He said nothing, but retrieved his plate and silverware, sat down and ate. According to Rosa, that was the turning point of their relationship. I said he deserved it, but she disagreed. It was only foolish pride, she said, something she tried to avoid.
Rosa followed her mother’s lesson to make everything with love, and even took it further. Without her strength, courage and caring, my father would have remained just as he was. Instead, he was a better man for having been touched with Rosa’s love.
5 thoughts on “Touched with Love”
A perfect story for these times.
Once again, this story shows that things learned from when we were children at our parents and grandparents knees were not always the truth. I grew up in such a home with my father and his sister and mother very prejudiced. As I grew up and entered the work force, I soon found out all the things my father said were very untrue. According to him, black people were worthless and only wanted welfare. There were lots of things said about other races too, but all of them were proved to be wrong. After I married and had my own children, my children were exposed to children of all races because we were a military family and you didn’t get to pick who your neighbors were or who your children would associate with. I have always been open to meeting new people and being friends with them because it matters not what color we are. We are all the same, with the same likes and dislikes, with the same worries and fears, the same concerns for the future. And each and every one of us stuck in that rut from childhood can step out of that rut and open our hearts and minds to meet new people and new friends, regardless of what color or nationality they are.
What an inspiring story!! I enjoyed alot!!
How true. Never judge a book by it’s cover as they say. It’s so surprising how when getting people of differing ethnic backgrounds together and making them interact with each other the supposed prejudice just seems to disappear…
If she would have responded with anger and resentment, he would have felt that his racism was validated. By “turning the other cheek” and responding to his hate the way she did, she taught him who was really the problem without saying a word. In the current times where the news is so often about tension between races, this is a lesson for us all. We all feel emotions, we all bleed red, and we are all human beings no matter what we look like.