As close as I can recall, it must have been around 1960 when I first remember meeting my great-great Aunt Polly Brown. The conversation that we had, brief as it was, had a major impact on how I viewed life, the values I came to hold dear and a pride in the strength that was passed to me through heritage.
I take the opportunity today to share my little piece of history that I had with my Aunt Polly Brown. I pray that the message here is as powerful today as it was 47 years ago.
I had already turned eight years old and my sister Melodee was toddling around (running really) at two when we took a trip with our parents, Bob and Mary Homes, to Payson, Ariz. As memories go, there are interesting factors that have left their mark ... such as, I know we were on the left side of the street, walking on a wooden sidewalk. I remember seeing a wooden Indian statue and that it was cold, because I had a jacket on.
Anyway, we were walking along, Aunt Polly and me, when I noticed that she was missing two fingers. I honestly don't remember which hand, but it might have been her right, as I was on that side. I said, "Oh, Aunt Polly, where did your fingers go?" (Diplomacy was learned decades later.)
She turned her head slowly and looked at me with a serious look and declared, "Little girl, you always got to pay attention!"
Filled with anticipation and curiosity, I responded to her statement with only a nod and a "Yes, maim." She knew she had my full attention, so she continued without skipping a beat.
She said, "Well, I was out at the ranch, working the cattle, as that was what we did a lot of back then, and I was doing some thinking. Now, I won't be saying that I was a daydreaming, mind you, but looking back at it now, it could have been just that.
When all of a sudden I heard a commotion and was brought back to my senses. Something had spooked a calf and off she was a running. I took off quick like and when I was almost on her, I threw out my rope and got her good the first time. I have to say that I was pretty pleased with myself and was getting ready to tie her off, when I looked around to see if any of the hands had seen me. I wasn't paying attention to what I was doing and got my fingers all wrapped up in the dally.
Well, that little calf was not real pleased by her predicament and started fighting to get free. That rope tightened up and popped those fingers right off!"
I don't think my eyes could have gotten any bigger.
All I could think to say was, "Oh, Aunt Polly, I am so sorry. I bet it hurt real bad!" She looked at me, with a twinkle of a smile, and replied, "Matter of fact, it did for sure, and messy, too!"
And then, with a heart filled with compassion after seeing the look of concern on my face, she continued by making a statement that would forever be a part of my very being. She stopped, looked at me square in the eyes and said, "Not to worry, little girl, I've got eight more!"
Little did I realize at the time, as I was still only a child, but those innocent words would sculpt the person that I was to become.
You see, that positive attitude and spirit, that survivor instinct was all set in motion on that day. Oh sure, it was in the DNA that I carried, and that pioneer spirit was certainly cultivated by the examples my parents set, but its core was awakened by Aunt Polly's encouragement and example.
Rarely do we have the opportunity to recognize what it was that played a part in the development of a person. Much less do we have the ability to see for ourselves the long-term effects that the telling of a simple story, the delivery of a meaningful compliment, a gentle smile or a little encouragement can have.
As I look back on that innocent beautiful day in Payson, so many years ago, I can clearly see the impact Aunt Polly's story had on me. I learned that we need to pay attention to even the small things, the things that may not look important at the time (like the real meaning of the story), but need to be noticed nonetheless.
The meaning beneath the surface just may be of greater value to us, than that of the obvious. And when we are handed a devastating blow, we need to look at the lesson, grow stronger with the knowledge and get on with life. I also learned that pride certainly does come before the fall and that when all is lost, what is important is found.
Life is filled with grand opportunities with which to grow and learn.
We just need to pay attention.
Thank you, Aunt Polly.