Have you ever read something that just stuck with you? Maybe it was a new perspective on a subject or a story you related to or a great example of someone who lives in the way you strive for everyday. I happened upon one such story several months ago and it really touched a cord in my heart. I’d like to share it with you.
Gwen Ford Faulkenberry wrote a story for inclusion into my daily devotional. It was about a woman named Leota Campbell. Having met Leota later in her life, Gwen described Leota as a tall and gaunt woman. She didn’t wear make-up and kept her gray hair combed back and gathered in a bun at the nape of her neck. Her clothes were plain and she was not fashion-conscious. Still, she was described as a beautiful woman because her inner beauty shone through in the works she performed. In fact, Gwen said that Leota personified the saying “Beauty is as beauty does.”
Leota was originally from Kentucky but moved to West Virginia to teach in public school. She was best known for many years of service as a Baptist missionary in the southern counties of West Virginia. She was quite a woman and worthy of having a biography written about her life.
Gwen was tasked with the responsibility of writing Leota’s biography and, through the process of interviewing people, found out some very touching facts about how Leota lived. Here are a few of the things people said about her:
“At Easter, she wears the oldest thing she has, for if someone comes to church who doesn’t have anything new, she doesn’t want them to feel out of place.”
“People learn to pray by hearing her pray.”
“New Christians learn the way a Christian should live by watching Leota. In word and deed, she is an example.”
“…As His, her ministry is caring for people no one would care for.”
As impressive as all these wonderful words of tribute are, there is one story that stood out to me most; and it has stuck with me every single day for all these months.
Gwen interviewed Mrs. Ernest Gardner, a pastor’s wife, who had recalled the witness of Leota in the aftermath of a flood in the Southern part of West Virginia in 1977 when the Tug Fork River flooded and numerous residents lost their homes. She said,
“Leota gave bibles, storybooks, and literature to the children. At one place, a child picked up some jelly beans off the floor and gave them to us. I didn’t eat mine, but Leota popped them in her mouth and ate them, rather than hurt the child’s feelings.”
That story rattled my heartstrings. Those dirty jelly beans were all that child had to give. And she “popped them in her mouth and ate them.” What a wonderful way to live — constantly in tune with the feelings of others. Knowing that it is just as important to receive, giving others an opportunity to give. Showing love in every small action.
Being mildly germaphobic (and much worse when it involves eating and drinking) I wouldn’t have eaten the jelly beans either. I mean, not only were they on the dirty floor but you can imagine how dirty the child’s hands must have been as well. I wouldn’t have eaten them. That is, not until I read this wonderful story about Leota Campbell.
Though she passed on years ago, Leota continues to touch lives everyday. Through stories shared by Gwen and others, she is still affecting those of us who strive to grow daily in our compassionate spirit. One of my life’s mottos now is to remember the jelly beans — gobble them up and feed the spirit of others.
I hope you will gobble up those jelly beans too! May you be blessed today and always!
Side Note: Here is a poem Leota wrote about her life. Enjoy!
“Only an earthen lamp
No beauty of design
Come, fill me, Holy Spirit,
Let Christ’s glory shine”