One early April morning in 1958, eighteen year-old Mary Winifred Parker stepped off a Greyhound bus in Biloxi, Mississippi with $25.68 to her name. She was dressed in a tattered pink dress, wore no shoes, and was seven months pregnant.
Hot and hungry, she went inside the station to get a sandwich with every intention of boarding another bus to Mobile, Alabama. Then she saw the Help Wanted sign above the counter of a small bus station restaurant.
Through the plate glass window of the station, she could see a boarding house advertising rooms for $7.00 a week. Next door to that was a five and dime store. Mary Winifred suddenly smiled.
She hurried across the street to the boarding house and rang the buzzer. An old woman came to the door and eyed her suspiciously, but was more than happy to take her money and rent her a room for a week.
At the five and dime, she found a flowery, loose fitting shift dress for two dollars and some cheap white sandals. She also bought shampoo and some sweet smelling soap. The cashier sneered at her as she rang up the purchases.
She went back to her room, showered and washed her long, dark hair. She put on her new dress and shoes, totally unaware of how pretty she looked. Then she prayed. God, please let this be!
With great trepidation, Mary Winifred walked up to the counter of the bus station restaurant. A kind looking lady with the name tag of Ellen approached the other side.
“What kin I get for you, hon?” Ellen drawled.
“My name's Mary Winifred Parker, and I see you need help here, Ma'am. I need a job. I worked in my step-mother's bar and grill back in Hattiesburg, so I know how to cook and waitress.”
“Why, yes, I do need help. But honey, ain't you just a bit with child? Kin you handle a job like this, bein' on your feet for eight hours?”
“Oh, yes Ma'am, I surely can! I got a room right across the street, and I need a job real bad. I'm trying to save money so when my baby comes, I can support it. Please Miss Ellen, I'll work real hard.”
“You all alone, hon? Where's yore husband?” Ellen asked with kindness.
“Don't have a husband, Miss Ellen, my boyfriend ran off. My step-mother told me I had to give my baby up for adoption. I ran away to find a way to keep it.” Mary Winifred was near tears now.
“Well, all right, then. Just so happens I have a maternity uniform in the back one of my former waitresses left. Job don't pay much, but meals are free.” Miss Ellen relented.
Oh, but the gossips had their day! Biloxi was a small town, and people started to talk about the unwed mother-to-be that Miss Ellen had hired at the bus station. Had Miss Ellen lost her mind? Hiring a tramp like that!
Mary Winifred got stares from everyone. People from all over town came into the bus station to see the town's newest sinner. But they noticed she worked hard, and the food at the station's restaurant never tasted so good.
One Sunday Miss Ellen brought Mary Winifred to church. What buzzing took place then! What nerve! Bringing that harlot into their congregation! Miss Ellen became as talked about as Mary Winifred.
Mary Winifred was more than aware of what was going on. Her landlady was the worst gossip in town and took pleasure in telling Mary Winifred all that was being said about her.
“You got no business in this town, young miss. Might as well move on and have yore baby elsewhere. Unwed mothers are frowned upon 'round here.”
“I just can't stay in this town!” Mary Winifred cried to Miss Ellen.
“Nonsense, child. Don't let that old woman scare you off! Yore the best waitress and cook I ever had. Just give it all to God, child.”
Mary Winifred surrendered her life to Jesus Christ the very next Sunday. When her baby girl, Mary Ellen, was born, townspeople showed up at the hospital, bearing gifts. The miracle of a newborn seemed to soften their hearts.
The gossip slowly ceased, and Baby Mary Ellen was christened. A year later, Mary Winifred met and married a good, Christian man.
Thank God, Miss Ellen, and Greyhound! Mary Winifred thought, as she walked down the aisle of a church full of guests. She had never felt more blessed in her life.
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