I know a woman who had exactly that. Her name was Miss Lillie Gladys Holcomb. Everyone always called her “Miss Gladys.”
I first met Miss Gladys when my family moved to a small town in Georgia when I was 8 years old. She was the elementary school principal. Though I may be wrong, I don’t think it was common for a woman to be a school principal in the 1970’s. That alone should have been my first clue at what an extraordinary woman Miss Gladys was. In the years I attended her school, I never once heard her raise her voice, never saw her angry or upset, never saw her flustered in any way. Instead, I can remember her smiling and saying “Good morning!” as we would arrive at the school each day. I remember her helping students, praising students, encouraging students and always asking us to “READ!” If there had ever been a prerequisite class to become a school principal, it could have been called “Principal Training 101” she would have been the perfect person to teach it! Miss Gladys understood kids and she took the time to let us know she genuinely cared.
Miss Gladys was also a member of the church my family attended. I remember her welcoming us to our very first service and telling my family that if we, as new comers to the community, needed any advice on where to shop for groceries, barber and/or beauty shops, banks, clothing stores, dentist, doctors…anything at all, she was there to help. Miss Gladys was a member of that church for over 80 years, so I know my family was not the only one she welcomed with such open arms! She was just that way.
I can remember going Christmas caroling to her house each year. She lived in a big house with her sister. They would always stand in the door and listen to us sing the carols and when we were finished, they would invite us into their home and serve THE best cookies and hot tea ever! They would sit with us and talk and tell stories and always made sure we knew we always welcome back at any time, not just at Christmas.
I had the opportunity and great pleasure to visit with Miss Gladys at her nursing home just last spring when I made a visit back to that small town in Georgia. I had been away for almost 40 years and that amazing woman remembered me! She did not recognize me by sight, but once I told her my name she knew exactly who I was and she remembered my parents as well. My friend and I got a good chuckle when at one point during our visit Miss Gladys looked at us and said, “You know, I am 120 years old!” We assured her she was NOT 120 and I recall her smiling and saying she was ready to go to Heaven. I will treasure that visit with Miss Gladys for the rest of my life.
Although I lived in that small town only five short years, the impact Miss Holcomb had on me has been with me all these years. I may not have been aware of it on a conscious level, but now reflecting back, I can see it. Miss Gladys was a one-of-a-kind woman and I am so thankful that she and I crossed paths. From reading posts on social media over the last day or so, I can tell she was a major influence in many, many lives.
Miss Gladys is no longer on this earth with us, but we can be certain her legacy of love and compassion will live on in our hearts, memories and best of all in our actions as we pay forward in her honor.