I’ve been planning this blog post since long before I even thought about starting a blog. Last May, I watched a fundraising campaign unfold on Twitter and it was unlike anything I had seen before. I tried to follow along but I was relatively new to the Twitter world and instead just watched from the sidelines. The campaign was called To Mama With Love and I read enough about it to get the basic gist of what it was all about, but I was still too nervous to jump in. Little did I know that the mastermind behind To Mama With Love would go on to have such an impact on my life over the next year. Yes, Stacey Monk, I’m talking about you. I watched strangers post messages of love to the mama’s in their life and thought about what I would say if given the opportunity to honor a mama in my life. I knew a year ago, the mama I would want the world to know about was my grandmother. So, world, come meet my grandmother.
Her name was Mary Elizabeth Walker. She was born in 1922 in Eufaula, Alabama, and married my grandfather when she was just 16 years old. Less than a year later, my uncle was born, followed by my mother seven years after that. I grew up a quarter mile from my grandparents so both of them were a huge part of my childhood. Even though it was my grandfather who I had a special bond with, it is the time after this death that I spent with my grandmother that I remember the most. She became a second mother to me after my grandfather died because from the age of 10 to about 15 or 16, I spent every other night with her, while my cousin took the other nights.
If there was ever a woman who led by example, it was my grandmother. She was the family nurse, doctor, midwife, preacher, historian, caregiver, disciplinarian, matriarch, teacher, cook and protector. She loved everyone and could only see the good in people. Even when those people might betray or mislead her, she still approached her relationship with them as one filled with love and tolerance. This woman was one of the purest, most genuine and sincere souls you could ever hope to meet. She loved God, her family, her friends, her neighbors and the stranger she had yet to meet. She grew up poor and never took anything in her life for granted. She was kind and giving and if she thought you needed a dollar, she would give you her last two.
My grandmother taught us the true meaning of community. If there was a death, a birth or an illness, she was the first one there with a fully prepared meal. If she couldn’t heal a person’s hurt, she could always fill their tummys. Her home was the gathering place for many family get togethers. Every holiday was spent in my grandmother’s kitchen and dining room. She would be up before dawn making sure every person at the table had their favorite dish in front of them. Yes, she always over cooked and we often had food for a week after one of her meals, but it was important to her that every one of us was happy.
My mom told me my grandmother’s dream had always been to be a nurse. I think that was obvious to anyone whose life she touched. She was either birthing babies or healing sore throats. Even in her retirement years, she took a part-time job as a sitter for hospice patients. She rarely ever saw those in her care pull through, but I can only imagine the level of care and love that my grandmother bestowed on those people in their final days or weeks. She took care of my family and my father when my father’s cancer diagnosis came in. She housed us for months and months when our home was destroyed by fire. She never said no and never once indicated that any of her work was less than enjoyable. As my cousin recalled to me, she never grumbled, no matter what hardship she was facing.
In preparation for this blog, I asked some of my family to share their favorite memories of my grandmother and this how my cousin, Susan, described her, “She would often make ‘house calls’ to check on people, like a minister in a Southern Baptist church. Her heart was of God. You felt it. Knew it.” That does truly sum it up. She was of God and lived her life in such a way that I’m sure He smiled down on her multiple times a day.
I’m writing this today because it’s been one year since I first discovered To Mama With Love and I am no longer afraid to jump right smack in the middle of this global project. I knew a year ago that the woman I needed to honor today would be my grandmother and I’m so happy that I can do that. My grandmother spent her life sacrificing for the sake of everyone around her, in much the same way as the other Mama’s being honored this week around the globe. My grandmother was not a woman of means but I can only imagine what she would have accomplished had she been given an opportunity to change the world. Or, maybe she is changing the world through those of us who strive to be like her, to live up to her charitable, giving and loving nature. Maybe her lot in life to was to show us what we should all strive to be and then take and use that knowledge to change the world through our voice and our actions.
Granny may not have directly changed the world but because of her, I hope to…one small action at a time.
View my Heartspace here.
To Mama With Love is a collaborative online art project that honors moms across the globe and raises funds to invest in remarkable women who are transforming our world. Scheduled for May 3-8, 2011, the site invites participants to create socially shareable “heartspaces” that include words, videos, photos & investments in honor of mamas they love. To create a heartspace, and send a Mother’s Day e-card from the site, participants make a contribution to the grassroots women changemakers featured on the site. Originally launched in 2010 by US nonprofit Epic Change, To Mama With Love appeared at the top of Mashable’s 2010 lists of 4 Innovative Social Good Campaigns for Education and 9 Creative Social Good Campaigns Worth Recognizing. In less than a week leading up to Mother’s Day, the site raised nearly $17,000, which was invested to build a children’s home in Arusha, Tanzania. Construction is already complete, and children have now become residents of this home built from love.
ABOUT THE MAMAS
To Mama With Love supports Epic Change’s mission to raise visibility and support for grassroots changemakers. Funds raised will be invested to expand the efforts of four extraordinary women:
“Mama Lucy” Kamptoni sold chickens in her Tanzanian village & turned her income into a primary school that now serves over 400 children. Her students consistently score at the top of over 120 schools in the Arusha district of Tanzania. Mama Lucy is an Epic Change fellow, and has been an invited speaker at the European Summit for Global Transformation.
Recently named one of TIME’s 100 most influential people and Newsweek’s 150 Women Who Shake the World, Suraya Pakzad is an outspoken Afghan activist on behalf of the rights of women and girls. She originally founded the Voice of Women Organization (VWO) to educate girls in Kabul in secret schools under the Taliban, and has since expanded to support and assist underprivileged women and children throughout Afghanistan.
At 19, New Jersey native Maggie Doyne used her life savings from babysitting to start Kopila Valley children’s home in Nepal, which has grown to a home for over 40 children, and a school serving over 200 students. Now, at just 23 years old, Maggie’s work has been featured in the New York Times, and her remarkable story has earned her the DoSomething & CosmoGirl awards.
Renu Shah Bagaria is the founder of Koseli, a center for children in Kathmandu, Nepal, who, due to their economic circumstances and the country’s recent civil war, live in the city’s streets and slums. Koseli, which means “gift”, provides education, food and tender loving care for over 75 young students, and, in the evenings, hosts an adult education program for local women.
Over 95% of funds collected through heartspace sales will be invested directly in these remarkable women. The remaining 5% represents PayPal & wire fees associated with donation processing & disbursal.