These last few days as the heat was soaring, my mind wandered back to 1996. I was at my first Workcamp in Elizabeth, North Carolina. It was my first time going on a mission trip to serve others. We would go to do physical labor on homes that needed repair but also to share our faith. It was July and it was HOT! I admit when we showed up at a house that only had one window air conditioning unit in the family room (our work was mostly outside and in the kitchen), I was not thrilled. How was I supposed to work in that heat! As the first day unfolded, we met the residents of the home. The family had five beautiful children and we soon began to form relationships with them. But late in the first day, I heard a baby cry from upstairs. I knew the rest of the kids were outside and the parents had gone off to work. I wondered if anyone knew the baby was crying, so my nosy self went upstairs to check on the little darling. However, as I turned the corner, I heard a voice, singing softly. I was startled, not knowing someone else was upstairs. I wondered if I should go back downstairs but I was discovered. The elderly woman invited me in to the room and she introduced herself. Essie Mae shared that she was no longer able to get around like she used to, so she stayed upstairs, took care of the baby and read her Bible all day. She was such a gentle soul and exuded this joy that I wish I could describe. It was so hot up there and she couldn’t come down and enjoy the family room where it was cooler...BUT she was happy! It blew my teenager mind! As the week went on, I continued to be shocked as I would see children who had very little, offer up to our whole work crew their special treat: freeze pops. The people I encountered had very little…yet they were content. Even more they were joy-filled. It was hard to wrap my teenaged brain that based contentment on one's circumstances: what you have or didn’t have. It is a lesson in faith and one that this family from North Carolina taught me. It is a lesson that I have continued to relearn as I have grown up. How easily it is to allow circumstances in our lives to determine our attitude and our spirit. I hope the next time you feel hot or irritated about something going on in your life that you will remember Essie Mae, that fountain of wisdom, who taught me about true contentment.
“For I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”