Letters from Louise: Marvelous Mentors

I am a lucky woman!  Besides having a wonderful mother, an older sister and two grandmothers as excellent role models while growing up, I had mentors – godly women who cared about me and shared their knowledge, time and skills.

Betty Keeton was a pastor’s wife at the church I attended during high school.  She taught me the art of loving a child with special needs long before I became the mother of a challenged child.  Gentleness and courage exuded from Betty and we became lifelong friends, our children being the thread that connected our lives forever.

Wanda Cruson taught bookkeeping, typing and shorthand along with high school English at the little country school where I graduated with a class of eighteen students.  Not only did Wanda challenge me to read widely, write creatively and speak with confidence, she also instilled self-esteem and social skills to complement my academic education.  When the boy’s baseball team left for afternoon games away from home, Wanda took the opportunity to hold “poise and posture” classes for the girls, teaching us to walk – not bounce – up and down stairs correctly, to stand without slouching and to speak distinctly and properly.  She also felt the freedom to correct our speech in any situation – hayrides, basketball games, even conversations in the hallway.  She was the high school “grammar patrol.”  How fortunate for me!

Ruby Wilson nurtured me with encouragement when I was taking my first tremulous steps toward becoming a published writer.  No surprise to her that I became an author.  She thought everything I wrote was magnificent. Of course, it wasn’t but oh, the joy of having such a fan in my corner.

Marge Caldwell was an outstanding Christian speaker, still going strong in her nineties until a car wreck ended her life.  Marge convinced me I was “somebody” when I felt like “nobody” while going through a very difficult time in my adult life.  She would often write or call just to tell me God loved me and she did too.  She assured me God was going to do great things in my life and celebrated each victory with me.

Bonnie Berglan was an elderly neighbor who lived down the road from my family. We shared her cellar and stories during storms.  On summer days she wore a long dress and a bonnet while working in her garden or crossing the pasture between our houses, calling out, “Tucker,” in a coarse, husky voice to see if my mother was home.  A long-time widow, Mrs. Bergland sometimes refreshed herself with a can of cold beer and dipped snuff on occasion. Not one to be idle, she never wasted a scrap of material or a minute in the day.  She made potholders, tea towels, pillowcases, aprons, footstools and more.  On my visits home from college she taught me to smock pillows – backwards, according to her, since she was left-handed.  Her philosophy was simple–everything and everyone were important.  A great way to live.

Libby Bryson, a retired minister’s wife, put the name of JESUS in front of me – literally – when I was in the midst of clinical depression, teaching me the skill of needlepoint and the necessity of keeping my mind focused on Christ.  She brought meals, hugged on my sweet, young son, and “adopted” me as a spiritual daughter.

My husband’s aunt, another Louise Jones, helped me find humor at a time when life seemed so very sad.  She brought laughter back into my heart and my home.

And now, I find that I have become the elder – the mentor – teaching younger women about such things as writing, parenting a child with special needs, praying for their children and finding joy in life’s journey.  I hope I can be the kind of influence on these young women that my mentors were to me – ladies who not only showered me with skills, friendship and faith, but truly loved me as they passed on their unique heritages. 

Today, I challenge each of you to become mentors, to invest in the life of someone outside your immediate family.  You are never too young or too old to make a difference in someone’s life.  One thing is certain – you will be blessed! 

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