Author Ava Pennington
Author Ava Pennington

Do you love a good story?

what's their storyI do. And I was recently reminded of the multitude of stories – real life stories – all around me.

But all too often, I’ve been clueless.

This past week, I attended a Celebration of Life service for a friend’s 99-year-old mother. Both women were members of the same church I attended for many years.

I knew my friend fairly well. I thought I knew her mother, a “sweet little old lady.” Then I read a summary of her life story in the funeral program. This sweet little old lady who greeted me on Sunday mornings had been a powerhouse!

Miss Arrie was a petite, black woman born in 1917. Not so unusual. Ahhh, but read on…

During decades when women were considered second-class citizens and black women weathered a triple dose of blatant discrimination, Miss Arrie made her mark in the world. She married a pastor and raised a family. But as the television commercials say:

But wait! There’s more!

During decades when higher education was often limited to the realm of white men, this black woman obtained not one, not two, but three degrees: a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education, a Bachelor of Science in elementary education, and a Master’s degree in education.

During decades when it was frowned upon for women to work outside the home, Miss Arrie began teaching in 1947 and taught until retirement.

Even retirement didn’t sideline her. She volunteered at the Jupiter Medical Center Auxiliary, Habitat for Humanity, and the Martin Country Teacher Retirement Association, among other organizations.

I never knew. I never knew because my conversations with Miss Arrie were mostly limited to social small talk. I didn’t learn her story until it was too late.

Still, I have the assurance I will see Miss Arrie again. And I look forward to deeper conversations in a place where we will all be known. I’m reminded of this verse:

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face.
Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known”
(I Corinthians 13:12 NIV).

I know this verse speaks of our relationship with the Lord. But I believe it can have a secondary application to our relationships with each other. And I’m looking forward to a second chance to know Miss Arrie better.

What a reminder for me to pay attention to the people around me. To look around and ask, what’s their story?

How about you? Is there someone in your world with whom you need to become better acquainted? What’s their story?

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  1. Diana Owens

    Thanks Ava
    A great write about mom. She always admired you. I would hear this s lot about mom . You would never have know this as she never talk about her accomplishments . She did write her own obit . All I had to do was find tune it. She was a great woman ,mom, grand mom and great gram. She was never not doing something. Arrie always worked 2 job along with helping anyone that needed her help

  2. AvaPennington

    So sorry for your loss, Diana. And I’m sorry I didn’t know her better.

  3. Yolanda Owens McFarquhar

    Beautiful story about my grandmother she was definitely a trailblazer in her own right not letting any barriers stand in her way.She truly was the matriarch of my family. She told us hard work and giving back. She will be truly missed and she is now working with the Lord continuing to teach and give of herself.

  4. AvaPennington

    What a legacy she left for you, Yolanda!

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