The heart of a mother

Brenda Cannon Henley

There are few things in life stronger than the love of a mother for her child. In her heart and body are the elements that sustain the young life until it greets the world in birth, and those same elements grow with each gift of a child. A mother knows her own child, I might add, like no other and can see the good sometimes resting beneath the unkind, mischievous or negligent surface.

We all know that there are exceptions and lives that are not perfect in so many ways, but generally speaking, mothers love their kids and will go to almost any extreme to see that they are healthy, happy and headed for success in their lives. If you drop the “m” from the very word, you have “other,” and that aptly describes a good mother. She cares deeply for that “other” person that came from her body.

Alice Walker wrote, “And for three magic gifts I needed to escape the poverty of my hometown, I thank my mother. She gave me a sewing machine, a typewriter and a suitcase.”

“My mother always told me how important dreams are. ‘Never give up on your dreams, because your dreams are where reality begins,’” wrote Marcia Y. Mahan of her mom.

And I loved this quote from Sonia Sanchez I read this week: “I still hear you humming, Mama. The color of your song calls me home. The color of your words saying, ‘Let her be. She got a right to be different. She gonna stumble on herself one of these days. Just let the child be.’ And I be, Mama.”

A good mama recognizes that each child she bears, even though in the same family, is different and that they are going to be uniquely themselves. No one should be forced to be someone he or she is not. We must give them the room to learn and grow and experience and become whomever they are. I personally have three children by birth, a son and two daughters that are as different as daylight and dark, but each is contributing to society, rearing families, and living the life that was given to them. I am proud of all three of my children and can well remember years of watching, praying and trusting that they were reaching their potential.

God has also blessed me with many boys and girls by way of a friendly adoption or taking them into our home to live over the years. I am just as proud of each of them and their accomplishments in life. Let’s remember all of the wonderful women God has placed in our lives who play the role of mother to children. They may be grandmothers, aunts, cousins, coworkers, teachers, pastors’ wives or neighbors, but they are important and they are loved. Let’s tell them so.

The three little lines from the popular movie “The Help” remind me often of what each child in our care should be taught from an early age: “You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” If they are reared believing these truths, they will face life better equipped to make it in this old world with so many challenges. This teaching is a major part of a good mother’s role in life.

And here’s a reminder from Ntozake Shange for the boys and girls these moms have brought into the world, no matter the age they have reached now: “Mamas only do things ‘cause they love you so much. They can’t help it. It’s flesh to flesh, blood to blood. No matter how old you get, how grown and on your own, your mama always loves you like a newborn.”

I hope you all had a Happy Mother’s Day this year!

Melvin Elkins

Many of you who have read this column for years will remember my good friend, Melvin Elkins, the vacuum salesman and song leader of his church in Beaumont. Melvin has been a dear friend of mine since I wrote the first story about him more than a decade ago. We have prayed together, laughed together, and cried together. Melvin phoned this week to let me know he has been diagnosed with colon cancer and is undergoing testing at MD Anderson. Please join me in prayer for Melvin and his dear wife, Faye.

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