Five Feet of Courage
By Ruth Mitchell
I am the eighth sibling from the family of ten. My mother, Charlener Gilyard, tilled the cotton fields from sunrise till sunset in order to provide a place for myself and nine siblings to live on the plantation for a small fee, food, water and shelter. A woman of strength, courage and charm, she taught us about having self-respect and pride. Most critically, she assured us that we are as important as anyone else.
Coming from a life spent in a cotton field of empty promises that offered no path to prosperity, my mother, who was born on May 26, 1929, achieved only a tenth grade education. However, she firmly believed that attaining an education was the key to our success.
When making a point that might not have been understood, she would use choice words that she emphasized such as, “Girl don’t just have book smarts, have some common sense to go with those books.”
In our every endeavor, Mother tried to provide encouragement, even in some ventures that she may not have agreed with because she envisioned better for us. Nonetheless, she continued to pray, believing that God would take care of us.
Every bit of five feet, my mother was powerful and showed kindness and good gesture toward all that she came in contact with. But when it was time to make things happen because she felt she was not being treated fairly or justly, she would turn on the switch and put things in order. I learned
so much from her which included her charm and mother wit, which are ingrained in me. When making a point that might not have been understood, she would use choice words that she emphasized such as, “Girl don’t just have book smarts, have some common sense to go with those books.”
From whoopings to praying, I appreciated my mother and all she gave me. Her inspiring character has transcended to the next generation, as all my children are educated and leading successful lives. I thank my mother who will always live within me. Her story, which is a cherished memory that I will share with her grandchildren and great grandchildren, will be preserved for a lifetime as a template of true love, determination and success.