Your Life Matters Book Excerpt #6 Your Circumstances Do Not Dictate Your Value

Depression and anxiety are the two most common things Americans struggle with. Sometimes this is caused by a chemical imbalance that requires medication to help a person work through it and thrive. Other times, it is because of circumstances such as the ones listed below.

  • Grief over the loss of a loved one or the loss of a significant relationship.
  • Financial distress. Loss of job, loss of a capacity to earn, stock market losses.
  • Persistent feelings of failure and shame.
  • Feeling like, “I don’t measure up. I’m not good enough. I’m not smart enough. I’m too poor.”
  • Bullying. Being bullied or shamed into doing things.
  • Disability. Serious medical condition. Terminal or chronic illness.
  • Legal trouble. Criminal or civil.
  • Adverse childhood. Trauma/ abuse/ neglect.
  • Discrimination.

You may remember the staggering statistics from chapter 2 with 25% of Americans dealing with anxiety and/or depression in one form or another at any given moment.

So what does this mean? Why does this matter? Why are we even talking about it?

When I look at those numbers, I see the hurt and the pain associated with it. So many have lost their loved ones and friends and they are wondering why they are still here.

“Why do I exist?”

“I have no purpose. All I do is hurt. I can’t pay my bills. Why should I even live?”

Many people ask that question. When they have no answer, they choose to die by suicide. It has become the tenth leading cause of death in America today, taking around 50,000 lives each year.

I’d like to tell you a story about a woman who you might not have heard about. She grew up poor, one of twenty-four children, and a minority in Detroit.

She married at thirteen to escape problems at home and it didn’t end well. Her husband was an alcoholic and a bigamist, and he left her with two young boys and no support.

She worked two and three jobs at a time to make ends meet. With no formal education, she cleaned floors, homes, and bathrooms—whatever work she could find.

That was a hard life already. Add the responsibility of two young boys, who would often go unsupervised for hours at a time, in tough neighborhoods. This created a nearly hopeless situation. She was stern with them and made them study and read. They couldn’t turn on the TV until after all their homework was complete.

During that time, she was struck with clinical depression.

Instead of allowing her challenges with depression to drag her and her boys down, she got the help she needed. Family members took care of the boys for a couple of months until she came back home.

She could have let that stigma of mental illness drag her down and keep her there, but she didn’t. She went back to work and instilled the same work ethic and overcoming spirit into her boys. This mom had her sons read books that opened their minds and encouraged them to study hard. She cared about them and worked to make a difference in their lives every day. She did the very best she could.

Her life mattered because she didn’t give up, even when she had to be so tired – physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And yet, each day she got up and did all she could one more day. Isn’t that what we are all called to do?

Her story of struggle isn’t unique. Her uncommon courage is. She defied the odds and not only survived but thrived – and so did her boys.

One son worked hard and earned excellent grades. He became a mechanical engineer.

The other son wanted to become a doctor. A brain surgeon, better known as a neurosurgeon. That son earned his Pre-Med degree from Yale and went to the University of Michigan for medical school.

He has now written best-selling books. A movie has been made about his life. He has run for President of the United States and was appointed to be the 17th Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Dr. Ben Carson.

His mother’s name was Sonya Carson, and her life mattered.

At any point in her life, she could have given up. Many others have given up, but not Ms. Carson. People throw up their hands every day, and walk away from families, abandoning children. They just quit on life. But not her.

When she battled clinical depression while working three jobs, she might have asked, “Is this all there is?”

But she didn’t let that stop her. I believe her faith allowed her to see, that even during times of great struggles, there was still hope.  

That’s how Sonya Carson lived her life. She didn’t know how her boys were going to turn out but she was determined to give them all she had.

She was changing the world by loving her sons.

Each day that she invested in those boys yielded a change in the world for the better.

Her story could be your story too. We each make an impact on this world.

Each day matters. It is a gift.

#YourLifeMatters.

Oseola McCarty, a washerwoman

What is a “washerwoman” and how could she change the world? A washerwoman went to someone’s home and washed their clothes. Hanging, folding, and ironing them as needed.

This was a very low-paying job, but for someone who has no formal education and is willing to work hard, it helped to pay the bills.

Meet Ms. Osceola McCarty. When she was a young girl, Osceola’s aunt became ill and could not take care of herself. This led Osceola to leave school to take care of her sick aunt. After that, she did what other women in her family had done for years – she became a washerwoman.

She was very frugal and saved all the money she could. She opened an account at TrustMark Bank in Hattiesburg Mississippi. When she earned money from her work, she deposited it there.

She didn’t own a car, preferring to walk everywhere she went. She didn’t subscribe to the newspaper, thinking it an extravagance. She had a black and white television and only watched the broadcast shows through the major networks.

Oseola was diligent about saving money in her bank account. As her account grew, the bankers at TrustMark bank noticed, and wanted to make sure that she was taken care of. They started working on her behalf as unofficial guardians. They convinced her to buy a couple of window air-conditioner units, and some other things for her personal welfare.

Then one day, when she was coming into the bank to make her routine deposit, one of the trust officers stopped and warmly greeted Ms. McCarty. He called her by name and invited her to his office. He also called in a man she knew well… An attorney she did laundry for.

At first, she was concerned that there might be a problem.

The bank trust officer quickly put her mind at ease. Nothing was wrong. This was a good meeting. He just wanted to share some good news with her. He asked her, “Oseola, do you know how much money you have in the bank?”

She said, “No, why don’t you tell me?”

“Well, Oseola, you have over $250,000 in your account.”

“I don’t know if that is a lot of money or not, sir.”

“Oseola, it is a lot of money and I would like to know what you would like to do with all of your money. Let me explain.” He took out ten dimes and some slips of paper. He explained to her that each dime would represent 10% of her total. Each slip of paper would represent where she wanted that money to go.

She looked at the two men, smiled, and said, “This is a blessing isn’t it!” Then she reached over to the first dime and said, “I want this to go my church.”

The trust officer wrote the name of Friendly Baptist Church on the slip.

Then Oseola reached over and moved the second, third and fourth dimes over and said, “I would like for this to go to my three remaining relatives.” She then gave the names to the trust officer.

She looked at the remaining six and said, “I want the rest of this to go for a scholarship at University Southern Mississippi, to students that are not otherwise going to be able to go to school, preferably of African American descent.”

The attorney put together the trust document and the bank helped to manage her money for the rest of her life.

When the word got out, that a washerwoman had just given over $250,000 away, and mostly for a scholarship, local leaders in the Hattiesburg area founded an endowment in her honor to make sure that this gift would be recognized forever.

President Bill Clinton awarded Oseola McCarty the Presidential Citizens award. The University of Southern Mississippi awarded her its first honorary degree. Then Harvard followed up giving her an Honorary Doctorate.

The founder of CNN, Ted Turner, said, “I’m inspired. If a washerwoman can give away all she has, maybe I need to step up to the plate as well. I pledge a billion dollars of my fortune to causes around the world.”

A lot of people stepped up and contributed because of this one woman’s story. But as a closing note, Oseola wanted just one thing—to see the person who received the first scholarship walk across the stage.

She was afraid, that because of her advanced age and poor health that this might not happen. In 1999, the first graduate of the Oseola McCarty Scholarship walked across the stage at USM, and Oseola was there.

She passed away several months later from complications related to cancer. A reporter sought out the scholarship recipient who graduated and asked her to comment on the passing of her benefactor.

She was quoted as saying, “The world is such a better place because of Oseola McCarty. She brought sunshine everywhere she went and asked for nothing in return. And now heaven is even brighter with their newest angel.”

There is so much to say here, but just let this story settle into your heart.

Think, what is possible for me?

How much of a difference can I make in this world if I will just commit to making daily efforts for the good?

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