My aunt Rose Jane was not only a favorite aunt of mine, she was a favorite person who greatly influenced my life from the very beginning. A true Southern belle, she was sweet and kind, with an ageless beauty and grace that extended hospitality to all who came near her. Her passing was bittersweet, enlarging the hole in our family that had begun with her declining health over the last several years of her life. Believing that she had rejoined her husband, her mama and papa, her son-in-law, and many, many other loved ones brought comfort to those of us who grieved for her. To help with my grieving, I quickly wrote this tribute to her the day after she passed on January 21, 2014:
One of the most valuable lessons I learned was as a Sunday school student at Immanuel Baptist Church in Camden (Fairview), Arkansas in the mid 1970’s. Every Sunday, I’d climb the stairs in the fellowship hall up to the Sunday school rooms for the younger children. In the hallway, you could leave your offering for the week, so I would deposit my dime before walking into the classroom. Inside, there were chairs lined up for us to sit in for the large group Bible lesson, and two doors leading to the smaller classrooms where we would go afterwards for our smaller group lesson.
On this particular Sunday, our Bible lesson came from Luke, chapter 21. It was the story of the poor widow and the rich men, putting their offerings into the treasury. Before we began, our Sunday school teacher, who also happened to be my aunt Rose Jane, handed out paper money in envelopes to the children. We were going to learn our lesson by performing a little skit. Not knowing entirely what the lesson would be about, I waited to be given my envelope. Others were opening theirs, to find inside many dollar bills. Wow! We were all going to be rich! Surely, I would be given the most money of everyone! She was MY aunt, after all, and would demonstrate my importance to her as her niece accordingly. I reached out to take the envelope from her, took it back to my seat and opened it eagerly…….and inside were two brown, paper coins. I was in disbelief. Wow. I got the least money of all. Why would she do this to me? Disappointed, I waited my turn as the lesson proceeded, with everyone, as the rich people in the temple, going forward to put their large sums of money in the offering plate. I, the poor widow, walked up to the front, dragging my feet a little, laid my two brown, paper coins on top of the piles of money, and dragging my feet a little, walked back to my seat.
Then she read from Luke 21, “And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had.”
Of course, this King James Version did not make a lot of sense to me as a child of about 6 or 7, but my teacher explained to us: The poor widow gave all she had, and it was worth more to God than the money the rich men gave. Everyone turned and looked at me, the poor widow. My heart lightened and I was so excited! Of course, maybe part of this excitement was my relief that my aunt did give me the best part in the skit, after all. But, it made me so happy that God was pleased with the widow – she didn’t have much to give, but she gave it all. It was a defining moment for me and how I would approach giving from then on, even if I didn’t realize it at the time. I don’t know if even Aunt Rose Jane could have known what an impact that would have in all the years that have passed since that Sunday morning lesson. Whenever I’ve reached into my pocket (literally or metaphorically), I’m reminded of the widow’s mite, to reach a little deeper and give what I have because it is pleasing to God – and I have my Sunday school teacher, my Aunt Rose Jane, to thank for that.