“My ma says I don’t haf ta sit next to you, and the teacher cain’t make me! Ma says we’re nothin' if not honorable, and we won’t be tainted by associatin’ with the likes of you, or your ma.”
The terrible taunts ripped out another chunk of his heart, but Walter no longer allowed the tears to appear. Mama says life is full of meanness, and I just gotta do the right thing, no matter how people treat me. I’ll do the right thing, but not until after he gets what’s comin’ to ‘im. At nine years of age, he had already learned that not having a father was a stigma that would haunt him forever. The seed of hostility was firmly planted.
“Money’s money--ain’t no difference whose pocket it comes from. Them 8 acres is yours now. It’s up ta you ta make it work fer ya.”
Walter looked his neighbor in the eye and offered his hand to seal the deal, but it was received only with reluctance. Y’all sold a better piece o’ land last month fer half the price, but yer right--this land’s mine now, and it’s a start At 19 years of age, he had already learned that he would have to work harder than others to accomplish anything. Outwardly, he submitted to prejudice, but inwardly, bitterness raged.
“Another boy? Before ya know it, all those little boys o’ yourn ’ll be workin’ those fields right beside ya.”
The words were benign, but Walter felt the condescension. Folks never really forget. These little ones bear my name and my shame, and they’re gonna hafta be strong. There’ll be no coddling here, but they’re sure gonna know how ta work. If a man can work, he can deal with most anything. I’ve got a fair sized spread now, but with this big family it won’t be enough. At 29 years of age, he had already learned that hard work pays off. The years ahead promised more of the same, but nothing less than Walter expected. Resentment was producing a stony heart.
“This has been a difficult year for you, but you seemed to have come through it all right. It’s a horrible thing to lose a child.”
That’s a truth fer sure. My heart still cries out fer Hesley, but in truth, his work on earth is finished. It was his death that brought me to the Lord, and fer that I’ll be forever grateful. There is no condemnation fer me now-fer what I do, nor fer what I am. God remembers it against me no more! At 39 years of age he had finally learned that there is Someone he can lean on, Someone who truly cares for him-quite a concept for a man who has always stood alone.
“That place of yourn is lookin’ right good. Havin’ all them boys looks to be payin’ off for ya, but they sure are the rowdiest bunch in the county. Too bad there’s no church near-by. That’s about the only thing that’s gonna settle them boys.”
Yer right, I did teach ‘em how ta work, but my rough ways have made my boys headstrong. I’m changed now, but what can I do ta change my boys? At 49 years of age, he had learned that there is more to life than hard work, but regretted he had not figured it out sooner.
“That’s a right purty piece o’ land to put the new church on, and it was right good o’ ya to give it. We’re all grateful to ya. Steppin’ up like that inspired the rest of us to give, an’ ar church ’ll be up before we know it.”
Fer the first time in my life, I feel respected. Not just fer the gift o’ the land, but people’s attitudes have changed. Or is it me that’s changed? I’ll never miss that property. No one knows it yet, but there’s a bell on the way to put in that steeple we’re gonna build. It’ll be a sign to me of God’s faithfulness. If He can put this kind o’ love in me, I know He can do the same fer my boys, an’ I’m trustin’ Him fer that. For the rest of his days, Walter’s life was devoted to the little country church and to his family. Though his children scattered across the country, there remains a remnant who faithfully attend, serve and support the Oakville Baptist Church of Trenton, Tennessee.
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