It seems sometimes we get enamored with things, and stuff, and status, and position, and money. So much is in our faces, and we are bombarded with the trappings of the world. Do we have the latest gadget, the most up to date tech, the coolest car, the biggest house? Are we advancing in our careers, are we being offered jobs and positions that convey more authority, more status, more money? How do we compare to our friends, relatives and neighbors?
Is our self-worth related to any of the above? Will any of it make a difference in the lives of others? Will we honor God with what we already have?
Oseola McCarty was born in 1908, and lived to the age of 91. She passed away on September 26, 1999. I doubt many thought much about Miss McCarty, after all she was simply a laundress. That’s how she made her living, taking in other people’s laundry. She remembers growing up with a big black cast-iron pot in the yard that she watched the older women wash clothes in. The whole family moved from Wayne County to Hattiesburg in 1916 and they took that pot with them, it was like a treasure to them. That old pot helped them make a living washing clothes for the white folks in town. They would carry water from a hydrant, filling up 3 big pots for their water and wash. Her mama would boil the clothes, not scrub them. They would hang them on a line with wooden clothespins.
Miss McCarty loved school, she loved to learn. At the age of 12 though, she had to drop out of the sixth grade to look after her aunt who was ill. She never got to return to school, she just kept washing and ironing clothes to make a living. She lived her life washing for other folks, paying for what she needed, saving what she could and giving to her church. She says she never needed much, she made do with what she had. Never had a car, just walked everywhere she went. She had an old black and white tv that got one channel, but she didn’t watch it. She would rather read her Bible, which was tattered and taped up to keep it together.
Going over her bank account, the bank officer asked her had she thought about what provisions she would make for her money after she was gone? She wanted to give 10 percent to her church, but the bulk of her money she wanted to go to help some deserving child go to college. She gave $150,000 to the University of Southern Mississippi for a scholarship. Because of her generosity, she was given the Presidential Citizens Medal and was honored by the United Nations. Of all the people she met though, the one that meant the most to her was the young girl who came and hugged and thanked her, as she was the first recipient of $1000 Oseola McCarty Scholarship.
In Guidepost’s magazine she’s quoted, “I’m always surprised when people ask me, ‘Miss McCarty, why didn’t you spend that money on yourself?’ I just smile. Thanks to the good Lord, I AM spending it on myself.”
I’m not certain, but I’m pretty sure Miss McCarty had her priorities in the right place. What a blessing she has been to so many. She focused not on the things of this world, they really are meaningless and transient, she focused on providing what she needed for herself and family, and the rest was to be a blessing to others.
In Luke 6:38 we’re told “Give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” I believe Miss McCarty lived out the truth of this scripture. What are we letting capture our attention, what things of this world are we allowing to hold us? When we give with an open hand and open heart, the power of God’s blessing is multiplied many times over. I am convinced, the trinkets we place so much value in have no standing when it comes to having “a glad and generous heart.”
May God well up in us a desire to be more giving, to give to others with the kind of heart Oseola McCarty has shown us. We are blessed to be a blessing
Your fellow traveler on the Way,