Yesterday morning, as a favor to a friend, I interviewed a woman named Tommie who has led an amazing life and still spends every day exploring new possibilities—what can she learn, what can she make, who can she help today?
She grew up in the forties and fifties, in a poor rural Alabama family with no economic advantages or even possibilities. But she had a few things going for her: She was intelligent, determined, and pretty (though she’s far too humble to describe herself that way). Tommie entered a local beauty pageant and won. That crown came with the first set of nice clothes she had ever owned and introduced her to a woman in the county’s home demonstration organization who taught her the social graces that helped her present herself well and gain confidence. (As a country girl who had never set foot in a cocktail party until I went to work at Southern Living—a place where every party is done to the
nines—I totally related.)
Tommie went on to marry, have kids, complete her doctorate, and travel all over the world. She became a teacher and developed all kinds of artistic pursuits. Her house is filled with expressions of her creativity. Most of all, she still loves to “do for people.” And I love that old Southern expression: “do for people.”
I’m generally my most miserable when I’m completely focused on myself: Why is this bad thing happening to me? Why can’t something good happen for me? The minute I can pry myself out of the me’s and do something for somebody else, my whiny little world gets bigger and brighter. And I have a fellow country girl to thank for reminding me of that.
[Image by Unsplash @ Freerangestock.com]